Black History Month arrived with a calendar laden with a plethora of films aimed at empowering a race and gender-conscious audience long awaiting the New Year and particularly the 28 days devoted to Black achievement.
Already reportedly pre-sold in many theaters despite a mid-month scheduled release, the much anticipated “Black Panther” will find screens rolling throughout cities during back-to-back screenings showcasing a film featuring an almost all-Black cast.
“When I was on Black Panther, I looked around and I actually got tears in my eyes,” Hannah Bleacher, production designer of the film said.
Making references to the decision-makers in the film project she explained that diversity exemplified the director of photography, unit production manager and advertizing and publicity heads are all women.
“The DP is a female, I’m a female, the costume designer’s a female, the UPM was a female, the AD was a female, the executive producer, Victoria Alonso, is female, all of different shades, sexual orientations, and they represent all of us. So, you look around at that crew, it was a diverse crew.”
The film spotlights the first Black superhero introduced as a supporting character named T’Challa in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s “Fantastic Four” in 1966 and later featured in his own book.
Although regarded as a novelty, in fact, Black superheroes have always managed to penetrate the solid barricade Hollywood claims as their winning formula to securing box-office victories.
Standouts and memorable celluloid releases include — “Brother From Another Planet,” Robert Townsend’s comedic parody of “Meteor Man,” and Wesley Snipes who starred in the role portraying a vampire slayer in “Blade” and “Blade II.”
Snipes’ outing was actually one of the first Marvel movies released by the studios.
Once again, the same company will be banking on a winner with a majority cast of Black actors, for a superhero adventure set on the continent of Africa.
“Black Panther” is guaranteed to rake in first day record audiences on Feb. 16 who have been enthusiastic and anxious since the film was green-lit.
The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Bamcinematek jump-started the frenzy by introducing a program of superhero films to preview the opening.
“Abar: The First Black Superman,” and “Sweet Sweetback Baadasss Song” launched the “Fight The Power: Superheroes on Film Series” on the second day of the month.
Tamara Dobson’s “Cleopatra Jones” followed the next day with “Shaft” on Sunday.
Daily offerings will also showcase “Space is the Place,” “The Spook Who Sat By The Door,” “Spawn” and “Meteor Man.”
A discussion titled “The Future of Black Screen Superheroes” finds its way onto the diverse program which leads into a Caribbean Film series on Feb. 13.
“Brown Girl Begins” highlights this presentation which will be screened at BAM Rose Cinemas at 7 pm. Written and directed by Toronto-based filmmaker Sharon Lewis, the 83-minute film was inspired by the novel “Brown Girl In The Ring.”
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Set in 2049, Canada, the poor are confined to an island off the Toronto mainland renamed The Burn. Ti-Jeanne is a reluctant priestess who must resurrect Caribbean spirits and survive the possession ritual that killed her mother.
If she doesn’t her people will die.
That Canadian import will be preceded by “S0.CI3.TY,” a short film by Khris Burton of Martinique.
There has been a renaissance with Black superheroes on television as well.
“Black Lightning” debuted last month on the CW channel. The storyline features an educator who gains electrical powers and becomes a superhero.
“Luke Cage,” a television show about a former convict with superhuman strength and unbreakable skin, premiered on Netflix two years ago and will begin a second season later this year.
Know that the star-studded “Black Panther” directed by Ryan Coogler is incomparable.
Chadwick Boseman, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, Danai Gurira, Sterling K. Brown are the principals.
Set in a fictional African nation named Wakanda, the film’s cast reflects the diversity of the continent.
Lupita Nyong’o was raised in Kenya.
Danai Gurira was born in Iowa but when she was five years old her parents migrated to Zimbabwe.
Letitia Wright is a Guyana-born British actress.
The fact women are predominant is because in the comics, Wakandan society elevates women in a manner contrary to the West.
T’Challa portrayed by Boseman is the Black Panther.
He is king of the fictional African nation and is empowered after gaining enhanced strength from ingesting a heart-shaped herb.
After the events of “Captain America:Civil War” and the death of his father T’Chaka, T’Challa is in mourning while ascending to the throne.
He is guarded by the Dora Milaje, an all-female group of ceremonial guards and warriors. To create this new nation, Marvel reportedly sent scouts to enumerable African countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Zambia.
Allegedly, “they purchased different items for the production team to examine, ranging from leather hide infused with metal to traditional neck-rings and ancient garb. Some of the costumes were actually designed in traditional African lace, with 3-D printing used to add depth and detail.”
Surpassing production details budgeted for most superhero films, Marvel has invested much to secure the biggest rewards from “The Black Panther.”
Boseman is acclaimed for starring roles portraying real life heroes. His first major outing landed a homerun showcasing the trials and triumphs of baseball great Jackie Robinson in “42.”
His musical skills proved tried and true when tested to herald soul singer James Brown in “Get On Up.”
Most recently Boseman delivered his third winning portrayal by delivering a superlative performance hailing the early years of NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall in the film “Marshall.”
Aimed at millennial aged audiences, the film provided an inkling as to how and why the Supreme Court Justice emerged the very first of his race to be seated on the highest judicial court bench in America.
Boseman is signed for a five-film contract with Marvel Studios.
Check out the “Black Panther” but also invest in the Black History Month film presentation listed at www.BAM.org where a diverse roster of superheroes uniquely “Fight The Power.”
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