Director Ryan Coogler sat down with NBA legend and contributing Hollywood Reporter writer Kareem Abdul Jabbar for a revealing discussion about the cultural significance of his comic book superhero movie Black Panther, which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday (Feb. 16).
The 70-year-old retired Lakers star attempts to understand the outpouring of emotions for a movie based on a comic book character.
“It’s a little like witnessing the unveiling of an enormous statue on the public square — with the public square being the world — of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela dressed in bright dashikis,” writes Abdul-Jabbar.
“This is an unprecedented global rallying for something that doesn’t include Beyonce. All this fuss over a superhero movie?”
Abdul-Jabbar asked Coogler to explain in his own words why he thought there was so much anticipation for this film.
“The concept of an African story, with actors of African descent at the forefront, combined with the scale of modern franchise filmmaking, is something that hasn’t really been seen before. You feel like you’re getting the opportunity of seeing something fresh, being a part of something new, which I think all audiences want to experience regardless of whether they are of African descent or not.”
Abdul-Jabbar notes that, “if you’re white, you’ll leave with an anti-“shithole” appreciation for Africa and African-American cultural origins. If you’re black, you’ll leave with a straighter walk, a gratitude for your African heritage and a superhero whom black children can relate to.”
Coogler added that, he hopes movie-goers will get a little bit more of an appreciation for the real Africa.
“I hope they take out of it a sense of enjoyment [but also] something that is not disposable, you know? From my perspective, things that are associated with the continent of Africa are often things that are associated with triggering the feeling of shame inside of me when I see them. If this film can give people who are of African descent a feeling of pride, even in the theater, that’s a bonus I wouldn’t even be able to comprehend as an artist.”