Over the weekend I committed myself to watching Black Panther.
Like many, I’ve waited for this film with anticipation. The build up has been immense – it is hailed as America’s greatest celebration of Africa on film – the film is believed to be a watershed moment for black people in cinema.
For me – there were moments that did make me catch my breath: the moment T’Challa arrives home to Wakanda; Dora Okoye complaining about having to wear a wig and then using it as a weapon during a fight scene; and the second and then final battles for the throne.
My feelings, were perhaps, compounded by personal experience. Seeing the film in a cinema of white faces because I live in Tasmania made me all the more aware that the only other black people I was sharing the cinema with, aside from one other POC woman a few rows back, were predominately on the screen.
Perhaps they were further compounded by a weird camping experience the previous weekend where I overheard my partners young daughter telling her friend, who we’d invited along for the weekend, to stop saying something because ‘it was racist’. When we later asked her what her friend had said she deflected and said she couldn’t remember, but reassured us several times it wasn’t about me – definitely not about me. She was so quick to offer this reassurance that I’m almost certain it was, in fact, about me.
Having racism enter your personal space in such a manner is alarming. It’s reassuring that my partners daughter is quick to point out racism and shut it down regardless of who it’s aimed at – but also deeply saddening that these negative experiences can hit so close to home, and tear at the fabric of my safety net. The experience has stayed on my mind for a week now, I’ve thought about it on my walks to work surrounded by white faces, in my office space where it’s much of the same. I was even thinking about it later that weekend as we travelled on a boat from our camping spot on Maria Island to the mainland of Tasmania. As I sat in conversation and thought a small child pointed at me and then proceeded to stare at me almost the whole boat ride home. I’m semi-used to this and waved at him to deflect his attention toward an actual interaction, he just continued to stare.
Moving beyond last weekend and to yesterday, I enjoyed the film for what it was – an American film about a comic book hero. Ultimately though, Black Panther feels like a film about African-Americans and America’s perception of Africa.
The characters and scripting feel objectively American and Disney and the relationship dynamics forged in American minds, which isn’t at all surprising given it’s a Marvel comic.
Watching Black Panther made me reminiscence on my favorite film about African-American culture to date: Moonlight. And look forward to the day a film out of Africa is the blockbuster we all flock to see.