The Black Panther Exit Survey
CARLO JAVIER // EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & KEVIN KAPENDA // COLUMNIST
Marvel’s Black Panther is dominating the cinema discourse. Not only is it garnering universal acclaim, it’s also breaking records left and right. Most impressively, Black Panther is breaking long-established barriers that has kept the world of cinema both restrictive and inhibited. Just how big of a deal is the film really? Here’s our take:
Review Black Panther in 100 words:
Kevin Kapenda: Inspiring and introspective. Black Panther is a roadmap to Afrofuturism and what we can become, but also a casual and inviting conversation of issues our people must address as we move forward. The schism between slave-descending Blacks and Africans subtly raised in the film, as well as the responsibility, or lack thereof, of African populations, on the continent or in the diaspora, have in supporting the prosperity of other Blacks.
Carlo Javier: Is it too soon to say that Black Panther is the most important film of our generation? Because that sums it up pretty well. More so than last year’s Get Out, Black Panther is big box office blockbuster that will be seen by billions of people around the world. It’s existing proof that yes, movies about marginalized peoples can and will make money. We could one day look back at it and define this movie as a milestone moment in terms of the types of stories we see on the big screen.
Of the many breakout stars in the film, who shined the most?
Kapenda: Definitely Letitia Wright as Shuri. A brilliant portrayal of a character who is confident in her abilities and self-aware of who she is. While a lot of her work happens from a far, she is just as brave as any fighter in the movie. As many reviews are already saying – Tony Stark ain’t got nothin’ on her. I’m not sure too many female superheroes do either.
Javier: As much as I’d like to say Letitia Wright for her exuberant performance as Shuri, or Winston Duke as the scene-stealing M’Baku, I’m gonna have to go with the already well-established Michael B. Jordan. Arguably one of the best young actors in Hollywood, MBJ only cemented his already stellar credentials with an absolutely magnetic performance.
The internet already has many thinkpieces about why Black Panther is important to all people of colour – especially kids of colour – what makes it such a powerful tool that resonates with all cultures?
Kapenda: I think Black Panther is inspiring to people of colour because its message is that prosperity is not something that is given to you by “white people”, but buried inside all of us, yearning to be unearthed. Also, Wakanda is not necessarily a place, but a set of ideals and values embedded in social relations. We can have Wakanda in Canada if we demand the liberation of racialized and vulnerable people.
Javier: I think it’s the way Black Panther depicted cultural traditions that you almost never see in a Hollywood film – much less a blockbuster of this magnitude. Also, the clothing. Not everything fashionable has to be suits and gowns. After seeing Black Panther , I looked up traditional Filipino formal wear, and I almost put it in an order.
Is Erik Killmonger the villain we didn’t know we needed?
Kapenda: Maybe, but many of the things that fuel his aggression drive Nakia’s passion to addressing suffering outside Wakanda. Killmonger’s conviction may have driven T’Challa to shift gears faster, but Nakia would have convinced him to make a difference sooner or later.
Javier: More so than what we needed – Killmonger is the villain that Marvel has long lacked. Outside of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Michael Keaton’s Vulture, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has sorely lacked in charismatic, relatable and memorable villains. Do you even remember the villains in Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World and the first Guardians of the Galaxy? Probably not, because they all sucked. Killmonger is entirely different. Every scene was loaded with gravitas and most importantly, some people will come out of the theatre siding with Killmonger.
What was your favourite scene?
Kapenda: My favorite scenes – because I never follow rules, are all of the ones in the ancestral state, both of T’Challa’s, as well as Killmonger’s. As a child, you’re never ready to lose your parents, and even one opportunity to talk to them again would truly be priceless.
Javier: Every scene that Sterling K. Brown is in. How has the afrofuturism featured in Black Panther changed your perception of what Africa can become?
Kapenda: Wakanda has their shit together unlike contemporary Africa. However, as I alluded to earlier, the only people stopping Africa from evolving are ourselves. Africa is the richest continent in the world, and the future of global agriculture. We’ve just got to stop the skimming of the budget, and start putting people first.
Javier: Certainly optimistic. We’ve always been led to believe and assume that many of the landlocked countries in Africa are impoverished, but as Kevin noted, global agriculture will play a pivotal role in our global resources moving forward. The state of Wakanda may be far too futuristic (and all too fictional) to be used as a barometer, but perfectly as an inspiration.
What did you think of the film’s contribution to discourse around the international refugee crisis and foreign aid?
Kapenda: No continent is immune to Trumpism. Unfortunately, colonialism has oriented us towards self-interest, rather than communitarianism that is embedded into nearly all our traditions. In almost every African country, there is talk about how one group must be “kept out.” I don’t think this movie highlighted this issue as well as it could have, but its inclusion only bolsters this film’s cultural significance.
Javier: My biggest takeaway is that leadership matters and our world leaders are a far cry from T’Challa. We don’t deserve T’Challa.