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Power and Responsibility in ’Black Panther’

Every now and then a movie comes along and changes cinema as we know it. We’ve seen it with the Star Wars franchise, The world of the English wizard, Harry Potter, and many others. These movies allow an escapism which is needed in these distressing times.

Black Panther, a new Marvel superhero movie is being added to the list of those monumental pictures. Why? Black Panther has been breaking countless records across the globe plus features the first black superhero in the Marvel universe and an all-black cast. Now if that’s doesn’t make your history list, what does?

Black Panther takes the never traveled narrative of ‘what if Africa was never colonised?’ to create a fictional hidden country ‘Wakanda‘, populated only by its indigenous people. The film to me seemed like a big FUCK YOU, to me, the very basis of the film says ’look at what we could have become, had you allowed our people to discover themselves. This Ryan Coogler production marks a huge moment of awakening for a lot of people of African descent but also other races and creeds too. The depiction of true African American/ Black culture being celebrated on a global scale teaches us all about acceptance and humanity. Actors with African features and dark skin tones being desired in a way that is genuine and refreshing.

In my experience watching Black Panther is a memory, I think I will treasure for the rest of my life. This movie injects a confidence in me I can’t even begin to express, the tears that welled up in my eyes as I saw images and sounds I didn’t realise, I needed to see or hear. Every scene seemed like a statement, every dark-skinned character appeared on screen, with no punchline, no over stereotyped background story, I sat there in awe of the boldness in this representation. Every move, every word, every action was bathed in the authenticity of the African experience and so unapologetic. We’ve all been yearning for these kinds of stories, for ourselves, our siblings or children to see that there is no colour to success or heroism.

It’s no doubt why people are racing to their nearest cinema house to watch this truly iconic feature. Black Panther has done more than given the overdue representation of black people and Africa, it has also brought people together. We are seeing cinema theatres are filled with far more diverse audiences, black people are proud of their heritage and even in places like Japan, locals are wearing their own cultural attire to take in this cultural phenomenon.

It would almost be funny if the notion wasn’t rooted in racism that black things don’t sell unless it’s made as a gimmick or served by a white protagonist. Furthermore, there has always been a narrative in Hollywood that “black movies” referring to movies of a majoritively black casts, will not do well in the box office and if made are labeled “niche”. Very little evidence has backed this up, but studios have as a result given “black” projects low budgets or seen them as too much of a risk to invest in.  It is a lie that continues to encourage racist acts and that prevents black faces from being appreciated in society.

The beauty of this film is how it utterly shutters that notion. As not only does the film have an all black main cast, but a black director, black set designers, black costume designers and much more. Although we cannot base the box office pull of this big-budget so-called “black movie”, I can say that as long as films and media keep to a true representation of people, the world is one step closer to being colour free.

Words by Collen Demerez

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