Monday, 19 February 2018

Black Panther

We went to the premier where everyone was dressed either in all black or African lappa/style/fabric. We didn't get tickets though and went to watch it two days later. 
What a treat it was to attend the premier of Black Panther in Monrovia same day as it was released all over the world. I remembered seeing a headline of the stars of the film showing up on the red carpet in 'African fabric and styles.' And, in the flyer I was sent for the premier in Monrovia, the dress was required to be African lappa or all black. 

So, there we were at the Silverbird Cinema at the TSMO Mall in Mamba Point amongst a lively crowd of cinema goers, dressed to the hilt in stunning fashion! The who is who of Monrovia was there. I was quite impressed and really enjoyed the atmosphere. They even had a bush devil there!

What was the connection with wearing African fabrics and styles to a film premier? 

I have never read any Marvel Comics or really been into superhero comics. I had no idea what to expect but I could sense the build up of the excitement in my social media newsfeeds! I knew this was a very big and eagerly-awaited film. I could guess this was a significant cultural moment after the recent years of activism against White Oscars, whitewashed films, and exhaustion with Euro-centric mainstream culture. I'm of course referring to Hollywood, the British film industry, and African reactions to popular American films about Africa. 

Seriously, after Black Panther, dump all the tired and lame films like Out of Africa, Blood Diamond, Patient Gardener, blah blah. Keep Queen of Katwe. 

You can only get the fashion connection once you see the film! 

I really enjoyed the film. What a difference a black cast makes in an American mainstream film! And, is it just me or did one feel that a kind of switch took place? Did it feel as if the conversations, reactions and comments you  make in your head suddenly were taking place on screen, a space where almost never do you enjoy that kind of real talk? Will descendants of colonisers be called colonisers on screen? Will the struggle of black people in the United States be even acknowledged in all its rage in the average film? 

What a stunning depiction of an imaginary, super-advanced nation in Africa? It was simply breath-taking. This nation was not only extremely cutting-edge but also steeped in traditions which is what was made this film great. 

There are so many themes that pop out of this film :

1) Africa
2) Black pride
3) Colonisation and slavery
4) Technology  and technology transfer
5) Aid
7) African and African-American identity
8) Revolution and solidarity 
9) Feminine power

As said earlier, I am not familiar with Black Panther comics and the original plots, characterisation, and themes but the movie brings to us a spectacular universe in favour of a much more, badly-needed black point of view. A point of view that is an answer. That is a revision. That is full of pride. 

An answer to what? Well, as much as the film is funny and entertaining, it offers some very serious themes. It tackles rage against helplessness of African suffering and, descendants of Africans in the United States. The moment T'Challa's kingly father visits his brother in California (who is placed as an observant dormant spy) is situated in the 1992 LA riots. It is shown that T'Challa's uncle asked his brother why must they stand by and not help their brothers whose communities are flooded with drugs and then are incarcerated? Why must their brothers and sisters suffer and, why should they stand by? These aren't ordinary film dialogues but potent political questions. The evil that is tackled in superhero films is alien, supernatural, in-human. Here, it is political, historical and the evil oppressors are human! 

I liked the nod to the plight of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria? T'Challa's ex, Nakia, is seen as helping these girls. 

The film's inclusion and role of fantastically strong female characters is as sweepingly refreshing as is how all the main characters are black! No incremental progress here. This film gets it right! The general is a woman! And she can't stand weaves. 

The idea that people who are suffering are oppressed as opposed to being a basket case; the idea that people don't need aid but technology; and, that we have to acknowledge the struggle are superhero ideas! Power to that. Screw aid, we need technology to overcome our problems (not charity), we need solidarity and we need help in our struggle.

T'Challa's cousin is angry, conflicted, and extremely hurt that he was abandoned and his own father was killed for wanting to help suffering Africans in the United States. 

How is this conflict resolved? T'Challa's cousin, Erik or Kill Monger, wants to fight, to give Wakanda's super weapons to all suffering people. T'Challa understands the mistake of his father (of abandoning his own nephew and for not sharing Wakanda's knowledge and technology) but doesn't agree to the imperial vision of his cousin. He fights Kill Monger, the usurper, for his throne and wins. He wounds Kill Monger but offers to heal him. He carries him to the edge of the caves so he can see Wakanda's beauty, as was promised to his cousin by his Uncle. Kill Monger had never seen Wakanda. He doesn't want to be healed. For what, he asks? His ancestors knew they didn't want to be in bondage, so some of them jumped off the slave ships. It was a very poignant and sad dialogue for the end of the film.

There's a part of you that identifies with Kill Monger. His burning questions, his fire, his tension are the rage we feel when we heard, read, and watch injustice in this globalised but meaningless world. You can watch people dying of hunger, being imprisoned, raped, murdered, and denied on your technology but you can't help.

Why did Wakanda hide itself instead of revealing its power, secrets, and technology? 

We see that T'Challa is in California with his nerdy sister Shuri, in the same parking lot, from where his cousin saw the mysterious lights in the sky (that of his father's spaceship). The film ends with a Wakandan spaceship landing in the lot which will be the beginning of the technology transfer, the set up of an outreach centre.

As an ending, I don't know how well the conflicts and universal issue of struggle is resolved in the end. Can an outreach centre save the day? It was a little bit of a limp ending. An outreach centre seems like a technical outpost for an empire or a peanuts thrown at socio-economic but ultimately political problems. Will you help people from the grassroots upwards? I would have thought it should have ended where the kings and queens and warriors of Wakanda would be talking to the leaders of the countries where black people are oppressed and suffering. Power to power! Will you finally show your might, moral persuasion and influence to the powers or not? The way the Wakandan spaceship showed up was as if aliens have showed up and will teach love and justice to the children. At least let the spaceship show up in a crisis situation. It was too limp of an ending that left the question of struggle and solidary unresolved. It remained conflict to cleaning the guilt of King T'Challa in as much as he will buy the building and surrounding buildings where his uncle died, perhaps uplift a downtrodden community but where is the grand master plan? The glimmer of a fight for justice? Where was that?  

Evening walk