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robertogreco : blackpanther   4

On the Blackness of the Panther – Member Feature Stories – Medium
"At least once a day, I think: “another world is possible.” There’s life yet in our dreams. The pan-African political project is still alive. The memory of whatever was good in the Bandung Conference or the Organization of African Unity still makes the heart race. Flashes of common cause among the Darker Nations can be illuminating and sustaining. But “Africa” as trope and trap, backdrop and background, interests me ever less.

I am more fascinated by Nairobi than by Africa, just as I am more intrigued by Milan than by Europe. The general is where solidarity begins, but the specific is where our lives come into proper view. I don’t want to hear “Africa” unless it’s a context in which someone would also say “Asia” or “Europe.” Ever notice how real Paris is? That’s how real I need Lagos to be. Folks can talk about Paris all day without once generalizing about Europe. I want to talk about Lagos, I don’t want to talk about Africa. I want to hear someone speaking Yoruba, Ewe, Tiv, or Lingala. “African” is not a language. I want to know if a plane is going to the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport. You can’t go to “Africa,” fam. Africa is almost twelve million square miles. I want to be particular about being particular about what we are talking about when we talk about Africa.

* * *

I grew up with black presidents, black generals, black kings, black heroes, both invented and real, black thieves too, black fools. It was Nigeria, biggest black nation on earth. I shared a city with Fela Kuti for seventeen years. Everyone was black! I’ve seen so many black people my retina’s black.

But, against the high gloss white of anti-black America, blackness visible is a relief and a riot. That is something you learn when you learn black. Marvel? Disney? Please. I won’t belabor the obvious. But black visibility, black enthusiasm (in a time of death), black spectatorship, and black skepticism: where we meet is where we meet.

Going on twenty six years now. I learned African and am mostly over it. But what is that obdurate and versatile substance formed by tremendous pressure? What is “vibranium”? Too simple to think of it as a metal, and tie it to resource curses. Could it be something less palpable, could it be a stand-in for blackness itself, blackness as an embodied riposte to anti-blackness, a quintessence of mystery, resilience, self-containedness, and irreducibility?

Escape! I would rather be in the wild. I would rather be in a civilization of my own making, bizarre, contrary, as vain as the whites, exterior to their logic. I’m always scoping the exits. Drapetomania, they called it, in Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race (1851), the irrepressible desire in certain slaves to run away.

* * *

Ten years pass and I still dream about that cat. The eyes slide open, an image enters. Where are you now, Mirabai? Euthanized years ago by the animal shelter? Or successfully adopted and now gracefully aging in some home in Brooklyn? With people, young or old, merciful and just? Dream cat, leaping up to meet me."
tejucole  2018  blackpanther  africa  culture  race  film  blackness  identity  cats  animals  knowledge  racism  zoos  capitalism  monarchism  rainermariarilke  switzerland  colonialism  tonimorrison  lagos  nigeria  immigration  edwardsnow  eusébiodasilvaferreira 
march 2018 by robertogreco
How Black Panther Asks Us to Examine Who We Are To One Another
"While interviews with Coogler reveal he based Wakanda on Lesotho, a small country surrounded on all sides by South Africa, it has become clear that most discussions about the film share a similar geography; its borders are dimensional rather than physical, existing in two universes at once. How does one simultaneously argue the joys of recognizing the Pan-African signifiers within Wakanda, as experienced by Africans watching the film, and the limits of Pan-Africanism in practice, as experienced by a diaspora longing for Africa? The beauty and tragedy of Wakanda, as well as our discourse, is that it exists in an intertidal zone: not always submerged in the fictional, as it owes much of its aesthetic to the Africa we know, but not entirely real either, as no such country exists on the African continent. The porosity and width of that border complicates an already complicated task, shedding light on the infinite points of reference possible for this film that go beyond subjective readings."



"How then does one criticize what is unquestionably the best Marvel movie to date by every conceivable metric known to film criticism? How best to explain that Black Panther can be a celebration of blackness, yes; a silencing of whiteness, yes; a meshing of African cultures and signifiers — all this! — while also feeling like an exercise in sustained forgetting? That the convenience of having a fake country within a real continent is the way we can take inspiration from the latter without dwelling on its losses, or the causes of them. Black Panther is an American film through and through, one heavily invested in white America’s political absence from its African narrative.

When Killmonger goads a museum curator early on in the film, calling out a history of looting, it is condemnation that falls squarely on Britain’s shoulders. Rarely must the audience think about the C.I.A.’s very real history in Africa. The fact that viewers were steered, at any point, into rooting for Martin Freeman, a British actor playing an American C.I.A. operative who attempts to purchase stolen resources from a white South African arms dealer, means that even a cinematic turducken of imperialist history gets a pass."



"Nonetheless, Black Panther is an undeniable joy to watch, even it if it is, at times, hard to experience. I can tell you that one of the most important things I saw, in a film set in Africa in 2018, wasn’t just the film’s lack of whiteness, but the almost complete absence of China, a country whose economic expansion throughout the continent has been singular and complicated. What’s more, for all of Killmonger’s liberation talk, Black Panther is also about the unrooted feelings of first-generation Americans, which for all intents and purposes Killmonger is. People, who despite knowing their origins, know that they will to some extent always be lost to them. Killmonger’s Wakandan-American rage and potential liberation comes from a uniquely complicated place, but we’ve yet to conjure a word for the pain of that proximity. Understandably, Black Panther only has room for so much politics, but it is important to acknowledge that it is in this selection that it reaches and abandons so many people. The film was never going to be everything to everyone — even if it meant everything to everyone. The film’s righteous anger is grounded in a real America with real problems, while its hopes lie in a fictional country distinctly removed from the reality of Africa.

***

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, Black Panther spent its opening weekend sold out five times a day out of a possible five showings. A question I repeatedly found myself asking is where Africans watching this film fit within the Afrofuturist possibility of Wakanda? How do you watch the dream of Africa, set within the real Africa, created by filmmakers in the diaspora, and then emerge to martial law? How hollow does Killmonger’s posturing and desire for a bloody uprising of the masses come across to a viewer living in the throes of one?

I know that when I leave my theater in Oakland, a disabled elder and real Black Panther will be on the verge of a no-fault eviction from her home. Five months will have passed since I watched the premiere of an Oakland-based web series about the racialized disaster of gentrification in the Bay Area at the Grand Lake Theater, the same place where Coogler made an appearance on the opening night of Black Panther. It is worth noting, that the word “capitalism” does not appear once in Black Panther, despite its focus on black liberation. Killmonger’s slash-and-burn approach to freedom, and T’Challa’s future coding boot camp for black American youth, both fail to address how oppression, particularly in the 21st century, is systemic."



"Analyzing the film’s antagonist is more complicated. Killmonger is written as pure rage, and it’s hard for a man written as pure rage, however justified, to be a good villain. What’s impressive about Black Panther is that it asks us to examine the grey area of that designator. Unfortunately, the Killmonger we see on screen is one who has read the Baldwin line “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” and ignored Audre Lorde’s “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The film is an ode to the exceptionalism of black American rage that, while singular, cannot speak for the majority of the diaspora. There is no precedent for worldwide liberation.

What’s more, Killmonger’s politics completely ignore the ways power structures overlap to oppress individuals. He is the type of man who would shoot down the concept of intersectionality if he met it in the streets. He kills his girlfriend. He brags about killing people of color in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as his own brothers and sisters in Africa. He is quick to assault an unarmed priestess who questions his orders. He delights in killing one of the Dora Milaje. In truth, I can only see him as a sympathetic victim if I squint hard enough at the past that made him instead of his actions on-screen."



"Black Panther may be a Disney product, but it would be foolish to see a film of this historical significance as intended solely for casual consumption. “This is not just a movie about a black superhero; it’s very much a black movie,” wrote journalist Jamil Smith for TIME. That blackness is global. Its very existence — Coogler’s singular execution of its $200 million budget — is a declaration of self-worth, an act of defiance aimed at an industry that has long undervalued black creatives on both sides of the camera. The film as a statement on black virtue should be celebrated, its examination of black possibility exalted, and its disparate philosophies parsed to the extent the viewer wishes.

The fact that my focus in this piece was less about the film as product and more about its politics is itself an accomplishment, a signifier of its exceptional quality. Every frame in Black Panther felt like a gift. A beautifully lit, well-moisturized, spectacularly choreographed gift. What I will remember about Black Panther’s opening weekend is the tragic relief of arguing the ideological calisthenics of a fictional African country instead of whether it is a shithole.

Black Panther’s audience hears the question “Who are you?” repeatedly over the course of two hours. The Queen-Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) shouts at T’Challa, “Show him who you are!” when M’Baku has the upper hand at Warrior Falls. It is the question Killmonger, bound by Wakandan chains, begs the king’s council to ask him when they first meet him. Indeed, it is the line that ends the film, uttered by a young black boy in Oakland peering up at a king no longer in hiding. That we have spent the week that follows asking ourselves the same question is the film’s lasting gift. Not only reflecting on who we are, but who are we to each other. T’Challa never apologizes to Killmonger for what his father did, for everything that was taken from him, and it is the film’s most damning omission. There is no healing that can come without the voiced expression of empathy. And I hope those who navigate the waters of their identity can eventually be greeted at a lasting shore with just that."
rahawahaile  blackpanther  2018  film  africa  utopia  diaspora  us  geopolitics  capitalism 
february 2018 by robertogreco
'Black Panther': Erik Killmonger Is a Profound, Tragic Villain - The Atlantic
"Killmonger’s stated purpose, to liberate black people all over the world, has sparked a lively discussion over whether he is a bad guy to begin with. What could be so bad about black liberation? “I fist-pumped in the silent, dark theater when he was laying out his plans,” writes Brooke Obie at Shadow and Act. “IT’S A GOOD IDEA!” That Coogler’s villain has even inspired this debate is a testament to how profound and complex the character is.

“In the end, all comes down to a contest between T’Challa and Killmonger that can only be read one way,” writes Christopher Lebron in a well-argued piece in Boston Review, “in a world marked by racism, a man of African nobility must fight his own blood relative whose goal is the global liberation of blacks.”

This is not actually what happens in the film. Killmonger’s goal is, in his eyes, the global liberation of black people. But that is not truly his goal, as Coogler makes clear in the text of the script and in Killmonger’s interactions with other characters. Like Magneto, another comic-book character who is a creation of historical trauma—the Holocaust instead of the Middle Passage—Killmonger’s goal is world domination. “The sun will never set on the Wakandan empire,” Killmonger declares, echoing an old saying about the British Empire, to drive the point home as clearly as possible. He sees no future beyond his own reign; he burns the magic herbs Wakandan monarchs use to gain their powers because he does not even intend to have an heir.

It is remarkable that many viewers seem to have taken the “liberation” part at face value, and ignored the “empire” part, which Jordan delivers perfectly. They are equally important. Killmonger’s plan for “black liberation,” arming insurgencies all over the world, is an American policy that has backfired and led to unforeseen disasters perhaps every single time it has been deployed; it is somewhat bizarre to see people endorse a comic-book version of George W. Bush’s foreign policy and sign up for the Project for the New Wakandan Century as long as the words “black liberation” are used instead of “democracy promotion.” Killmonger’s assault begins in London, New York, and Hong Kong; China is not typically known as a particularly good example of white Western hegemony in need of overthrow."
blackpanther  adamserwer  criticism  culture  film  2018  imperialism  liberation  christopherlebron  us  democracy  politics  blackpantherparty  isolationism  blackpanthers 
february 2018 by robertogreco

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