Marvel’s Black Panther is already setting records for superhero movies, but the film’s growing popularity and buzz is definitely coming at either an awkward or opportune time, depending on how you look at it.
Black Panther will transport Marvel fans to the proud African nation of Wakanda, a mythical El Dorado-style world, where ancient tribal customs and the world most advanced modern technology all exist in one rich culture. Although fictional, this Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Wakanda has a lot of resonance with the actual nations of Africa in their rich diversity, culture and sophistication – all of which were undermined by the reported comments from president Donald Trump.
With the controversy of Trump’s alleged “Sh*thole Countries” statement still hanging over the world, how do the makers of Black Panther feel about representing Africa and its people on the big screen? EW spoke to members of the cast and crew about that very subject, while attending the film’s premiere this week:
“I don’t worry about what he says. My family’s from Uganda. I don’t care what he says about anything,” said Oscar-nominated Black Panther/Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya. “That’s where my family’s from — he can’t hurt me.”
Co-writer Joe Roebert Cole added that director Ryan Coogler and the writers always intended to combat racist stereotypes of Africa with their depiction:
“We tried to root the story as close as possible in real-world Africa and be respectful of a place that frankly has been caricatured unfairly so often in the past. That was a really important thing for Ryan, and he really pushed the charge with all of us. The movie can speak to that more than a message directly to anyone… a self-[determining], advanced African nation that isn’t influenced by Westernized views, and in that sense it determines what it is.”
For actress Florence Kasumba (who plays security chief Ayo), the best revenge against the notion of Africa as a “shithole” will be how Black Panther begins to re-write that narrative:
“We get to see a country that is civilized, which has the best technology, and that is something that people haven’t talked about. We always get this sort of picture about a country where people are not educated, and that’s going to change and people will get a different idea.”
However, the most prominent statements come from Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther star John Kani, who plays T’Challa’s murdered father, T’Chaka. Kani is actually from South Africa, so Trumps supposed comments (literally) hit close to home. However, the actor wasn’t at all shaken by the hate, stating:
“Africa has survived for centuries; today Africa stands strong. We are not going to spend time discussing it. We are not a sh—hole country — we’re the greatest kingdoms of the world. I am a descendant of great kingdoms. My grandfather and my great-great grandfather were kings and princes. When someone says something that really displays extreme ignorance, it doesn’t warrant my second thinking about it.”
To quote that old Marvel adage: ‘Nuff said.
Black Panther opens in theaters on February 16th. Other upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movies include; Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.