For many films are merely entertainment, just something that prevents idle minds from getting bored. However, film as a medium is a huge part of culture and what is shown on the big screen to millions around the world can affect not just trends in popular culture but mindsets in people everywhere. From creating narratives about topical issues that affect others to simply the inclusion of particular groups can make a huge difference with very little effort on the part of the filmmakers themselves. One such film that did this recently was surprisingly Marvel’s Black Panther.
Though the film itself wasn’t entirely revolutionary in what it did, the core elements that collectively constructed the film made its impact enormous. Its popularity rose to incredible levels and it was even Oscar nominated. The film was great for both Black people as a whole and for Africa, as many aspects of the country and its people were put on screen, here are some of the key features that helped reveal aspects of Africa to the masses.
Though the film is set in the fictional region of Wakanda, it is still set in the continent of Africa. Wakanda is a technologically superior place here, surpassing our current abilities by leaps and bounds but this isn’t necessarily what was so good about it. Showing Africa as a more urbanized environment is rarely done on screen, Africa is often depicted as an endless desert wasteland, which is not just inaccurate but bad for tourism. This simple aspect could help bring more people to the cities of Africa, and certainly entertains the location as a new breeding ground for emerging tech.
From the character costumes to the buildings and décor of the buildings, African design is used everywhere in this film. From the vibrant colours that create elaborate trails of body paint to the geometric shapes that make up the street art, the look of the film really aligned with African style. This is not only a step up from simply homogenizing, but the art here shows that Africa has its own flair and one that can inspire new artists.
In scenes where Black Panther is undergoing ceremonies things become very different. Not only were these scenes wildly different from the other superheroes, but they also had some honest aspects of African heritage in them too. Many traditional rituals and practices from Africa are often demonized in film, here they clearly show that these are part of the characters lineage and there is nothing untoward about them.
This is a multi-pronged push for equality. The female leads in this film helped show that equality on all levels is possible. From Shuri, a highly intelligent computer lover to Okoye a fast, strong warrior woman, the classic stereotypes of females were lifted here. It showed the importance of women in Africa, there presence in all aspects of life and that they can embody any role a male can. More than anything this film did great things from representation, not just of Africa and its culture but for black people worldwide, something entirely unexpected from simply another comic book film.