At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, a 23-year-old named Jeron Braxton took home the Short Film Jury Award for Animation. His winning short, called "Glucose," was a surreal, disjointed, and truly moving exploration of police violence and loneliness in the internet age.
Braxton's much-anticipated follow-up, "Octane," is debuting on The FADER today. Currently on display at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the six-minute film is both a sibling of “Glucose” and a transportive stand-alone work, a triumphant barrage of CG wizardry and knotty visual allusions. At certain moments it makes me think of the underrated early-’00s video game Jet Set Radio Future, but otherwise is not really like anything I’ve seen before. It’s set against a score of Braxton’s own creation, one that recalls elements from both the L.A. beat scene and Oneohtrix Point Never’s catalog of mutilated collage work. It’s 100% best experienced with the volume turned way up.
According to an email from Braxton, “Octane” deals with “the modern commodification of black bodies.” But it also touches on other issues close to his heart, like his hometown of Indianapolis's decision to shutter three inner-city public schools before acquiring millions to fund a prison, as well as modern police’s origins as runaway slave patrollers and the parallels between the genocide of Native Americans and the current mistreatment of Latinx immigrants.
It’s a crash-course in social history that feels heartbreakingly personal, one that also finds room to celebrate the beauty in the world, from street art to music to the nerve-racking pleasure of simply being alive. All this in six minutes! An open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Please give Jeron Braxton an Oscar.