[CAUTION: BLACK PANTHER SPOILER ALERT] A week after it opened in cinemas, I had the honour of watching Black Panther and I LOVED it. I didn’t go the cinema decked out in my kente cloth because I was watching the movie a week after opening and I feared that the “African” accents would ruin my experience and that the movie may not live up to the hype. Bad call because 15 mins into the movie, I got so emotional (even teary) seeing aspects of my culture and heritage being portrayed like I had never seen before on screen. It was really awe inspiring. I loved how African/African diasporean actors, including lesser known ones were given roles in this movie; the portrayal of strong female roles with women soldiers and a leading female character who choose career over marriage; the incorporation of isiXhosa; the drums; the styling – oscar worthy for sure. In this blog, I point out a few other aspects of the film that stood out for me.
OK. Lets get this out of the way. The accents were distracting with the worst offender being T’Challa, the protagonist. That said, I am willing to give it a pass because it is a fictitious country and maybe, just maybe, that is how is they talk in Wakanda. [Side eye]. But, I have to give a shout to two actors who did it for me on the accent front. The Afrikaans character (a British actor) nailed the accent in my opinion. Side bar: Should we be concerned about the stereotyping of Afrikaners in Hollywood? Remember Blood Diamonds? Then there was M’Baku from the Jabari tribe. The character was played by a Tobagonian actor, who did a hilarious impersonation of an Igbo (Nigerian) man. When he shouted “I won’t have it. I won’t have it oooo” with that “oooo” at the end, it didnt feel contrived. It was all so familiar and funny as hell.
The crossed hands on chest greeting and the ceremonial shoulder shake
I loved it. The greeting was cool. It brought out that black and proud feeling. The ceremonial shoulder shakes, seen in various African cultures, particularly in East Africa, was a nice touch. I personally got emotional everytime I saw it especially when it was done by Ugandan British Actor, Daniel Kaluuya.
A white saviour?
They say black movies in Hollywood only do well when they have a white saviour. Cases in point: 12 years a slave; Django Unchained; The Help; Amistad; Hidden Figures, etc. Movies like Selma, Birth of a Nation, typically do not do well if they dont have a good white guy who saves black people from their plights. So we gotta talk about Agent Ross – the CIA agent who lingered about throughout the movie and eventually helped the Wakandan people in the epic final battle scene. We could give this “setback” a pass because Agent Ross could only do what he did under the guidance of a young black woman. But at the same time, I felt that his character was so pedestrian and even distracting… like why are you still here?? He got way too much screen time. I happen to like Klaue, the Afrikaans guy and would have liked him to stick around a little more… Agent Ross, was a nuisance but again, its about the industry and its need for white saviours.
Some corny bits
I am not a big superhero movie buff – they tend to be corny and this movie had a few of those moments. But, it did not kill the vibe. Still, I want to mention some. How about the lion king scene where little simba, oh sorry, T’Challa, talks to Mufasa? And Forest Whitaker’s character, Zuri, which appeared inspired by Rafiki in the Lion King? Was it corny? Yes! Did I mind? Not at all. And what do people think about the Rhinos? A friend of mine thought that was corny. I think elephants or lions would have been corny. I give rhinos a pass. Maybe it also helps to bring attention to poaching and how endangered they are…
African-African American relations
The complexity of African and African American relations is seldom talked about. There is a tense and complicated relationship which is underlined by elements of “judgement” and “stereotyping” that goes both ways. The Black Panther movie pulled a nice little trick at the end showing a postive diasporan partnership with Africans extending aid to under priviledged African Americans. It was a powerful visual. It was empowering for Africans to see this possibility and hopefully, inspiring for African Americans. It got me thinking about the possibilities of a meaningful diasporan relationship where African countries can reach out to the diaspora in their times of need and extend support for example during natural disasters.
If you’re reading this, I trust you’ve seen the film. I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
Peace and Love