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Film / Space Is the Place

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Space Is The Place is a 1974 film, directed by Joshua Smith, and centers around cult jazz musician Sun Ra.

Sun Ra is being reported lost since his 1969 European tour. He lands on a new planet in outer space with his band, the Arkestra, and decides to settle Afro-Americans there. He travels back in time to 1943, when he was a pianist under the name of "Sonny Ray". There he confronts a pimp-overlord named "The Overseer" (Ray Johnson) and they agree on a card game to decide the fate of the black race.

This film provides examples of:

  • Afrofuturism
  • After the End: Sang:
    After the end of the world, don't you know that yet?
  • Ancient Egypt: Sun Ra and his Arkestra are dressed in Egyptian themed headdresses, costumes and masks.
  • As Himself: Sun Ra plays himself, both as a 1940s piano player, as well as the space persona he performed on stage.
  • Blaxploitation: This film was made during the early 1970s with a majority of Afro-American actors, deals with themes of black self awareness and salvation and features a cool soundtrack.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Sun Ra and the Overseer sometimes talk directly to the camera.
  • Concert Film: In some scenes we see Sun Ra and his musicians perform on stage.
  • Cool Shades: Lead singer June Tyson is seen wearing Cool Shades whenever she appears in a scene.
  • Deal with the Devil: Sun Ra plays a card game with a man called "The Overseer" to decide the fate of the black race. It is implied he is some kind of a demon character, because when they begin playing the game the 1940s jazz club suddenly changes setting to a desert where both of them are seated at a table.
  • The Future Will Be Better: Sun Ra looks for a planet to take the Afro-American race to.
    Oh, we sing this song to a great tomorrow
  • Hospital Hottie: Two nurses, one white, one black, decide to strip and "get it on" with the Overseer in a hospital room.
  • Messianic Archetype: Sun Ra's character has come to save Afro-Americans.
  • Mind Screw: The film features a lot of surreal scenes and sometimes confusing edits.
  • Mummy: Sun Ra revives a mummy from its sarcophagus.
  • N-Word Privileges: The word is used a lot, mostly by the Overseer character. The white Nasa scientists also announce their plan to "put a coon on the moon by June" and refer to the black brothel lady as a "nigger", after beating up two of her prostitutes.
  • Nipple and Dimed: When Sun Ra's music creates a whirl wind that empties the jazz club one woman's bra flies off revealing her breasts for a split second. Later, a black and white nurse are seen in full frontal nudity when they strip for the Overseer in the hospital room.
  • Pimp Duds: The Overseer is dressed up in a white pimp suit, a cane and hustles whores.
  • The Place: Mentioned in the title.
  • The Power Of Jazz: Sun Ra's piano playing causes a whirlwind and a storm which causes everyone to flee in panic, leaving only him and the Overseer alone in the room.
  • Product Placement: A Rolling Stone cover is seen and mentions Sun Ra's landing on the planet Earth.
  • Running Gag: The minion of the Overseer always thinks he can have sex with one of the two young women he brings along, but the Overseer always sends him out the room.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: The Overseer's scantily clad/nude female companions.
  • Shout-Out: On the walls of the Oakland youth center we see posters of various Black Panther Party members, such as Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver.
  • The Sleepless: At one point his musicians complain that Ra has been working for hours and that they want some rest.
  • The Stoic: Whatever happens Sun Ra always remains calm.
  • Time Marches On: Sun Ra at one point says: "The year 2000 is right around the corner."
  • Time Travel: Sun Ra travels back to 1943, when he just began performing. There he confronts the Overseer.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Just like Sun Ra's stage persona he is depicted as being from outer space and travelling in a Ufo.
  • The Treachery of Images: The black people wonder whether Sun Ra is real of an imposter? Then he lectures them:
    I'm not real, I’m just like you. You don’t exist in this society. If you did your people wouldn’t be seeking equal rights. You’re not real. If you were you’d have some status among the nations of the world. So we are both myths. I do not come to you as a reality, I come to you as the myth because that is what black people are— myths. I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I’m actually a presence sent to you by your ancestors. I’m going to be here until I pick out some of you to take back with me.

The soundtrack album

There are two Sun Ra albums with the title "Space Is The Place". The 1972 album has nothing to do with the film. The 1993 album is the official Cult Soundtrack.


  1. "It's After the End of the World" (3:25)
  2. "Under Different Stars" (3:55)
  3. "Discipline 33" (3:22)
  4. "Watusa" (7:11)
  5. "Calling Planet Earth" (3:04)
  6. "I Am the Alter-Destiny" (1:08)
  7. "Satellites Are Spinning" (2:33)
  8. "Cosmic Forces" (3:09)
  9. "Outer Spaceways Incorporated" (3:00)
  10. "We Travel the Spaceways" (2:28)
  11. "The Overseer" (3:04)
  12. "Blackman/Love in Outer Space" (16:53)
  13. "Mysterious Crystal" (5:53)
  14. "I Am the Brother of the Wind" (5:54)
  15. "We'll Wait for You" (4:11)
  16. "Space Is the Place" (4:23)


  • Sun Ra – piano, Minimoog, Farfisa organ, Clavinet, Rocksichord, declamation
  • Kwame Hadi – trumpet, conga, vibraphone
  • Wayne Harris – trumpet
  • Marshall Allen – alto saxophone, flute, oboe, bassoon, kora, cowbell, percussion
  • Danny Davis – alto saxophone, flute, alto clarinet, percussion
  • Larry Northington – alto saxophone, conga, percussion
  • John Gilmore – tenor saxophone, drums, percussion, vocal
  • Eloe Omoe – bass clarinet, bongos, percussion
  • Danny Thompson – baritone saxophone, percussion
  • Lex Humphries – drums
  • Ken Moshesh – conga
  • June Tyson – vocals, bells

The soundtrack album provides examples of :