March 03, 2018

Black Panther, an African-Renaissance Film

The movie Black Panther represents the essence of everything we’ve desired in a Black-genre film, iconoclastic, trendsetting, intelligent, and visionary. It frames the African world outside the boilerplate European-influenced constraints that have come to define Black filmmaking. Wakanda, a small African nation that neighbors (fictional) Narobia, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, has a breathtaking skyline in its capital city, Birnin Zanda, reminiscent of a blended Nairobi, Kenya and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, cityscape, give or take another fifty to one-hundred years of unimpeded progress. But in the movie, the Kingdom of Wakanda is real, and it’s now. The scenery and costumes are dazzling and evocative of the incipience that is primordial Africa, the mother continent of us all. Add-in the maternal instincts of female imperial guards and mostly African characters, and we have the makings of an African-renaissance film that we can all be proud of. In the movie, Black Panther’s uncle had left an illegitimate African-American son in Oakland, California (in 1966) after he was killed following revelations that he was involved in selling vibranium, a precious metal derived from a meteorite collision in present-day Wakanda centuries ago. The valuable metal’s impact on a native herb is what gives Black Panther (T’Challa) his powers, and Wakanda its technological and financial wealth. T’Challa learns of the story of his uncle during the same period that his first cousin, the illegitimate African-American son, brings back the dead body of a pernicious vibranium dealer. The conflict between the African-American cousin (Erik Killmonger) and T’Challa reaches a climatic end that explicates the current real-world narrative of African-American, African relations. Characterizations like the dogmatic Jabari tribe, which evokes thoughts of Hebrew-Israelite brothers on America’s and London's street corners make for introspective analysis on the Black liberation struggle.