The Brother from Another Planet

The Brother from Another Planet
John Sayles, 1984, 108’

“Children witherin’ away up here, brother, worshippin’ the idol of capital, lustin’ after the false salvation of here and now. Black brother and sister perishin’ up here, mon, waiting for scrap from oppressor table. Oppressor got us for house pet; do him tricks to get reward. Oppressor need a slave; him find it here. Oppressor need a harlot; him find it here. Oppressor don’t need here at all; him wipe it away from the map.”

Virgil in The Brother from Another Planet


“Patterns of colored lights flicker on the black screen, the dashboard of a spacecraft. The dashing and whizzing of the vehicle increases and a low angle shot reveals the astronaut, and then the sound of a splash landing. A body pulls itself up from the sea with a severed leg bleeding profusely. The man reaches down and generates a warm glow over the tattered limb. In the blue-deep night, the muted shadow of the Statue of Liberty upholds a dim spark in the distance for the arrival of this latest fugitive.


The opening sequence is critical to the historical and cyclical vision articulated in the film. The Brother hops on one foot into the shelter of the Ellis Island Immigrations Center. Unlike the Europeans who entered (or were rejected) through the legal channels of admission, the Brother arrives in the night, foreshadowing his future on this planet, and reflecting America’s dark past. The cacaphony of ghosted voices he activates as he feels his way around the immigration station forewarn the accolade of aspirations, frustrations, and desperations that will echo in the alien’s ear as he moves through this planetary maze. He answers with the language of the silent Underground.”

Melba Boyd1


  • 1Melba Boyd, “But Not the Blackness of Space: The Brother from Another Planet as Icon from the Underground,” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts Vol. 2, No. 2, Summer 1989, 95-107.
UPDATED ON 11.10.2017