15 March 2019

Africa: Revisiting Racist Sixties America, Reimagining Colonial Africa

analysis

Having watched two racially charged films, Black Panther and Green Book, the author contemplates how contemporary cinema makes use of or manipulates America's racial textures.

In recent weeks I watched the film Green Book several times and finally got around to watching Black Panther. Both films were much talked about in 2018, but for very different reasons. And our reaction to them was also sharply different.

Director Ryan Coogler's 2018 film, Black Panther, largely takes place in the mythic African country of Wakanda that has been untouched by the ills of colonialism. The country is at peace and the sole source of an awesome, near-magical mineral. (Presumably, the very real Ethiopia -- an actual non-colonised African state historically was not the model for Wakanda.)

The film was based on the Marvel Comics character and storyline bearing the same name. This place of Wakanda holds indigenously developed, very advanced scientific and technological prowess; and it also has armies of very tall, very bald women who serve as an all-female praetorian guard. Inevitably, a leadership succession struggle takes the eponymous hero on some high-speed car chases around the world and then it moves to a cinematic standard (and rather bloodless) fight to...

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