Why Black Panther is more important than you think it might be

Feb 16, 2018 | Arts, Life

The view of the entrance for the premiere of “Black Panther” in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 29. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

The movie Black Panther was released in theatres this past weekend in Canada and there has been much anticipation surrounding Marvel’s latest release.

According to Forbes, in preview showings alone, the movie has boasted $25.2 million in ticket sales. This is the first time Marvel has used a black superhero as the protagonist all while shedding light to the African culture as a whole.

The film may even be a defining moment for actors and people of colour not just in Hollywood, but around the world.

Its mainly black cast and crew are culturally and historically significant. As Marvel’s first black superhero character, Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 in 1966.

Peter Howell, a Toronto Star movie critic and the president of the Toronto Film Critics Association, said the movie is about the story of Black Panther’s alter ego T’Challa who returns to his African homeland of Wakanda. Howell said origin movies are usually boring but this one gets right into it.

“Ryan Coogler is really put together and [it’s] a really engaging story that brings you into a world, the fictional place of Wakanda in Africa, even though it’s fictional it feels real and rooted in history, the history of being colonized and having to fight that  in Africa and the casting is fantastic,” he said.

Black Panther tells the story of a new king of an African nation Wakanda, who is challenged by forces within his own country. (REUTERS)

Being cast with the likes of Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurrira, is “almost like a who’s who of African American talent and British talent,” Howell  said.

He brushes off any criticism of the movie not being diverse.

“I just find that kind of silly because first of all there’s two very significant white characters, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman,” Howell said. “You know that fact that it’s a predominantly black cast should be celebrated. You know sometimes I wonder why people get themselves tied up in knots over this kind of stuff.

“I mean this is a movie that goes against the grain, you know every other super hero movie is overloaded with white characters,” he said. “To just flip it around and to showcase and really show black characters I think is great and should be celebrated.”

That may explain why Black Panther’s been so well received in the countries it’s already been released in and why it continues to do so well.

At home, the Black Business and Professional Association, a non-profit launched in 1983 that addresses equity in the Black community through business, employment, education and economic development, located in Toronto is turning this screening into a memorable event for hundreds of youth.

“We crowd funded seats for about 350 black youth for the screening of this movie tomorrow night, to give them a chance to see the movie,” said Andray Domise, the association’s communications co-chair.

“Ultimately it’s just so important that black youth get to see films like this, where they are represented not just in positive manner, but in a way that they could look up to these superheroes and say that could be them one day,” Domise said.

The event originally started with a goal of $6,000 and within eight hours the proceeds more than doubled to more than $15,000.

“I hope these kids have fun, it would be great for these young people to get inspired so much so to go write their own movies and invent awesome things…and not only to look up to these heroes but the culture they come from as well,” he said.

Humber College student Julian Reid said he saw a commercial of the movie on TV and was surprised by how good it looks.

“I think I might watch it with my brother because him and me like super hero movies. If there’s ever a Marvel movie, we both wait for the other one to go watch it,” Reid said.

He said he’d recommend the movie.

Humber student Asma Karimi, was moved by the trailer.

“Since I’m a person of colour as well it matters that I get to see people that look like me on the screen. Diversity is a very good thing and we need more of it,” Karimi said.

“The movie looks good and I want to go watch it. Representation also matters and we need more of it, this kind of change is good,” she said. “We need movies that reflect us because Canada and America are diverse and we need to see this kind of demographic reflected on the screen.”

With files from Sasha Azeez