About a minute into the
And if its
Part of the excitement is because cinemagoers finally have a black superhero who doesn’t feel like a consolation prize. Director Ryan Coogler’s all-black cast far surpasses previous paltry offerings to the black and brown people whose dollars and pounds turn films into blockbusters, yet who rarely see themselves represented with any depth or diversity on the big screen.
Not since the Blade trilogy, starring
But the fervour over this film is about so much more than mere representation:
In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, 60 years since the Notting Hill race riots and 90 years since women aged over 21 got the vote in the UK, here is a movie set in an east African country, albeit a fictitious one, which is the most technologically advanced in the world.
Wakanda has never been colonised. As well as being a superhero, Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, is a religious figurehead and a political leader whose strength comes from his intellect, the superior technology in his suit, a herb that only he can eat without being poisoned, and the knowledge of his ancestors. It’s
His 16-year-old sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), is the
But the comic’s history hasn’t always been so political. In fact, having created the character in July 1966, just months before the revolutionary organisation
In the 70s, as new black heroes emerged from
No such indifference today. The Black Panther preview on YouTube has been watched more than 34m times in the countdown to the February release. The film’s stars are some of the most recognisable black actors, a combination of Africans from the continent and the diaspora: Angela Bassett plays T’Challa’s stepmother, Ramonda; Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a member of the Dora Milaje; Michael B Jordan is our villain, Erik Killmonger – tellingly, a Wakandan who grew up in exile; and, having already mesmerised audiences in 2017’s big black film
Kaluuya saw the event as an occasion to celebrate his heritage, and so too will I when I head to my local cinema. I’ve pulled the gele out of the closet. A Maasai necklace sits next to it. My scarab beetle bracelet and Xhosa blanket complete the pile. Each item might be from a different part of Africa, but accuracy isn’t the point here:
• Eliza Anyangwe is a freelance writer and commissioning editor