Black Panther as Afro-complementary Cinematic Intervention: Lessons for Africa South of the Sahara Movie Industries.

Author:Aiyesimoju, Ayodeji Boluwatife
Position:Critical essay
 
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Introduction

Black Panther is the first mega-budget fictional superhero movie with a predominantly black cast, causing it to fill a lacuna in international cinema--the absence or stereotyped portrayal of Africans and their continent in international cinema. The eighteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was released on February 16, 2018, "as the entertainment industry is wrestling with its toxic treatment of women and persons of colour" Smith (2018) and it was regarded as "overdue" Bishop (2018).

Black Panther portrays elements of a variety of deep African heroic cultures, climaxing with the Afro-complementary gesture of T'Challa sharing the resources and technology of Wakanda with the rest of the world. The action symbolises healthy global interaction without undermining national and continental sovereignty and individuality. This is a useful lesson and guide in creating content for Nollywood. Scriptwriters may explore such storylines that tell of global inter-connectedness and developmental synergies, emphasizing Africa's uniqueness. This differs from the current African filmmaking trend of looking within the same local context and producing very similar movies, causing its output to lack originality and adequate ability to make commensurate revenue.

With regards to production, Marvel Studios employed a very wide range of experts to put the movie together. The diversity in the production teams did not alter the crux of the movie; rather, it allowed the story to be adequately told while meeting global filmmaking standards. To position itself as a source of top-notch Afro-complementary content, Nollywood should be complementary in its production with expertise and skills as key determinants in constituting production teams.

The African movie industry struggles to push its content to the global stage whether or not they meet globally accepted standards and conventions. Interestingly, Nollywood ranks second globally in terms of annual production, following India's Bollywood (UNESCO, 2013). Despite the success of Nollywood within the African film industry, it has not enjoyed adequate global recognition and key players have found it difficult to penetrate the global scene. Hence, this study aims at drawing lessons from the Afro-complementary content and production of Marvel's Black Panther.

Background

The development of African cinema south of the Sahara, like most other continental identities, can be traced to the region's colonial history. The continent's cinema in the colonial era was absolutely represented by Western filmmakers while local film production was mostly repressed, especially in French colonies by the Laval Decree in the mid-twentieth century. The Laval Decree of 1934 was used to prohibit Africans from making movies in French African colonies without prior authorization. Even films made by non-Africans were scrutinized, and when found to be anti-colonial, such films were banned (Barlet, 2012). Africa's cinematic representation in this era was used to "reinforce the Western vision of a dark continent." (Murphy, 2000: 239) Africa was projected as a wild and savage place with exotic endowments but without history. Movies produced at that time include Tarzan the Ape Man (1931) and The African Queen (1951).

The 1960s saw a wave of...

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