‘We are ready. We’ve been ready’: Black Panther ushers in a new wave of black sci-fi

“There is an element where they recognize that women are a part of this society and that even a fictitious character like Black Panther can’t exist in a world where women are marginalized ”

Opening in Canada as A Wrinkle in Time hits screens is another vision of the future centred on strong black women. Like Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time also features a legion of strong female characters, another Afrofuturistic signature according to Womack. A decade ago a commitment to an African-inspired superhero with a nearly all-black cast may have seemed radical, but if reports of pre-ticket sales are any indicator, Black Panther arrives at a time when audiences are clamouring for greater diversity. 

Chadwick Boseman, left, and Michael B. (Marvel Studios)

While there have been black superheroes on the silver screen before, there never has been a comic-book movie quite as Afrocentric as Black Panther. (Brendan Adam-Zwelling)

Traoré shares the screen with Emmanuel Kabongo, an actor viewers of Frankie Drake Mysteries may recognize. “It’s this idea that you can reinvent yourself. In Black Panther the woman leading the charge is played by Danai Gurira. Walking Dead fans know her as Michonne — the dreadlock warrior, eking out a life in the apocalyptic TV series. That has often pushed black cultures forward. Inspired by the science fiction stories of Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl Begins takes place in the near future where the elite of Toronto are protected by a force field. But to put forward something where black people exist in the future I think it feels threatening.” 
Another shade of beauty

But Lewis persisted. She cobbled together funding, shooting the film on a shoestring. Coming soon in March, director Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, a multiracial adaptation of the much-loved novel, starring Oprah and Storm Reid. For her young female lead, Lewis cast Mouna Traoré. It’s a fictional creation first dreamt up by comic creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s. 

In the real world there is no Wakanda, but Gurira said Black Panther highlights Africa’s rich culture in other ways. 
“It’s synthesizing a lot of the beauty and the strengths of the continent that’s we’ve never seen, but they’ve always been there.”

Welcome to Wakanda: How Black Panther’s production designer created a world never seen on film

Gurira, left, stars as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, the Black Panther’s private bodyguards. It certainly helped people to push past any sense of limitations that they may have experienced.”

Black Panther is just one of a number of films offering a different vision of the future. In Black Panther, Gurira is bald, strong and loyal to T’Challa, the regal king of Wakanda, who moonlights as a superhero in a catsuit. 

Part of what sets the latest Marvel movie apart is the vibrant vision of an African country unscathed by colonization. We are ready. Behind the camera is director Ryan Coogler, a black filmmaker who first burst onto the scene with Fruitvale Station, a film about the day in the life of a victim of a police shooting.  
$200M budget and A-list cast
With the full support of Marvel studios and a $200 million US budget, Coogler filled out the cast with an impressive array of actors, including Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya and Michael B. “Wakanda forever!”

It’s the rallying cry of a proud African general and part of a new way of reimagining African culture and heroes on the big screen. People can also look up at us.”

The question remains whether the latest wave of black-led sci-fi visions are here to stay. 

Game of Thrones showrunners tapped for new Star Wars films

The recent news that the showrunners of the Game of Thrones series will be creating a new series of Star Wars films was a reminder of how the genre is dominated by white male creators. 
With the success of filmmakers such as Get Out’s Jordan Peele that may be starting to change. 
But the industry will be watching Black Panther’s box office results closely to see whether the investment in new voices pays off.  Author and filmmaker Ytasha Womack said Afrofuturism is ” a way of looking at the future or an alternate reality, but through a black cultural lens.”

Womack said part of the appeal is how Afrofuturism offers a sense of possibilities that challenges the negatives images that are all too often associated with Africa. Kabongo, who was born in Congo, sees his industry at a turning point.  
“People want to feel part of something. So movies like Black Panther or Brown Girl Begins are very positive message to say we can also be heroes. (Marvel Studios)

However, Gurira said the interest in Black Panther goes beyond the African-American audience. Why do we only see things from one perspective? “As soon as she walked into the audition we were like, ‘Wow,’ because she’s tall, she’s gorgeous, she’s dark skinned. (Sharon Wu/CBC)

Canadian director Sharon Lewis grew up loving science fiction, but when she tried to find funding for her film she said Hollywood North was more interested in telling stories of the past. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, the usurper to the king’s throne. “Nobody has seen this imagery and everyone black, white, questions why. Jordan, right, in Black Panther. Afrofuturism, sci-fi and why ‘it is a radical act for Black people to imagine having a future’

Carving out a living in the desolate wastelands known as The Burn the Caribbean community call on spirits to save them. Another sort of shade of beauty.”

Mouna Traoré stars as Ti-Jeanne in a scene from Brown Girl Begins. That was really, really important to me to have a lead actress that represents another diversity. We’ve been ready.”
Black Panther’s power source: Afrofuturism

Part of the power of Black Panther’s imagery comes from Afrofuturism, a movement that fuses African culture within a futuristic narrative. “It felt like if I had chosen to do a slave narrative that that might have been an easier path. The terms was coined in the 1990s but musicians such as Sun Ra and George Clinton’s Parliament were some of Afrofuturisms pioneers. Brown Girl Begins director Sharon Lewis talks to Eli Glasner about the Caribbean sci-fi film 15 years in the making.