Ntituzosubira Inyuma: A Response to Neptune Frost in Prose and a Short Poem

by Ketty Nivyabandi

Neptune Frost is fresh rain on parched soil, a radical, subversive manifesto of imagination, an ingenious blend of past and future and an astute, redemptive mirror of our present.

As a daughter of the region, I was moved by the consistent use of Kinyarwanda and traditional poetry throughout the film, the artistic and political choice to place the heritage of the Great Lakes region and its iconic, most revered voices at the very center of the film. Cecile Kayirebwa, a legend in Rwandan traditional song, calmly hums to Neptune in a style reminiscent of ibihozo, ancient lullabies. The magical scene unfolds against ethereal, green and foggy hills typical of Rwandan and Burundian landscapes.

The sound of Burundian drums, a century-old rhythm encrypted code (my sound is encrypted, yours is easy to read) was believed to be the heartbeat of a nation. The film itself is as much a hack as the theme. Through a myriad of artistic forms and a cast of bold, brilliant, young Burundian and Rwandan actors who reflect the voice of the region today, it decenters the cultural dominance of the western world to infuse rhythm, visions, textures rooted and birthed on East-African soil.

But what struck me most is the breadth of Neptune’s imagination and scope. The poignant attempt to cast in its wide and radiant net our world’s most pressing questions: gender and its discontents, coltan’s bloody trails and the devastating impact of the mining industry, the morbid spell of technology, the world wide web of coloniality, new and evolving African identities and life’s most persisting themes: betrayal, longing, love, loss.

It is an offering of fervent dreams and boiling rage. Refreshingly audacious yet poised, it achieves what poetry does at its best: breathe a new song into the viewer and leave them changed. Far more than a film, it is a wondrous invitation to disrupt, to hack dehumanizing systems of inequity, to dig into what has always sustained us and to rebuild.

Neptune Frost is a fierce affirmation that another world is possible. An affirmation rich enough to nourish collective action and expand what we envision as liberated futures. If art is often an avant-garde preview of what is to come, this film speaks of an awakening already underway across the African continent:  

Hatutarudi nyuma. Ntituzosubira inyuma. We won’t go back again.

A rallying cry. A poetic rupture. Into what has been, what shall always be. A piercing hack into our global disorder, its manufactured, well-oiled injustices, its maddening state. To reclaim ourselves: whole and free. Love-full. Hope-full. Dreams-full. Life-full. Ever full.

Never again, fooled.