From The Last Angel of History (1996), dir. John Akomfrah (all images courtesy Maysles Documentary Center)

If you could write to yourself in the future, what would you ask? Would your questions concern the fate of the environment, the consequences of this latest pandemic, or perhaps what will come of the ongoing nationwide uprising for racial equality? If you’re like me and would probably inquire about all three of these topics (and more), I suggest tuning in to After Civilization, a month-long streaming program of speculative experimental films presented by the Maysles Documentary Center.

From an “an Afrofuturist leapfrog between Africa, Detroit and outer space” (John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History) to a haunting meditation on failed capitalist experiments in the Brazilian Amazon (Susana de Sousa Dias’s Fordlandia Malaise), After Civilization presents 12 films of varying lengths that explore questions of what if and what now. As curators Emily Apter, Annie Horner, and Inney Prakash write, “when the modern idyll of ‘civilization’ is threatened — whether through active resistance, environmental disaster, or structural collapse — what follows?”

From INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place/it flies. falls./] (2016), dir. Adam Khalil & Zack Khalil

Another highlight is Adam and Zack Khalil’s INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place/it flies. falls./], a thrilling kaleidoscopic retelling of the Anishinaabe Seven Fires prophecy, which predicted the grave effects of first contact with European settlers. Likewise, G. Anthony Svatek’s .TV weaves a prophetic portrait of Tuvalu — an island nation rapidly disappearing due to the climate crisis — guided by voicemails from the future.

Perhaps best of all, After Civilization will be available entirely for free. So if you’re looking for food for thought on a budget, Maysles has you covered. Happy streaming.

When: All films streaming for free, July 16 through August 15
Where: Online, via the Maysles Documentary Center

See Maysles Documentary Center for the full lineup. 

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.