Amajla Tricic, Assistant News Editor
“Black Panther” premiered in movie theaters with a record-setting $192 million debut weekend in the U.S. and Canada, as well as an international debut of $361 million, according to Variety. The latest installment to the Marvel universe took the fifth spot on the list of biggest movie debuts, following the likes of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Avengers” and “Jurassic World.”
“Black Panther” is now part of a growing list of films with a predominantly black cast to be released to critical acclaim in the past several years, joining “Straight Outta Compton,” “Get Out” and “Girls Trip,” something that students at Utica College said is significant in the push for better representation and inclusion in movies.
For Asad Emi, president of Brothers On a New Direction (BOND), “Black Panther” is a representation of black excellence, black culture, black leadership and strong, powerful black women who are vital to the community.
“For so long Africans around the world in various ways have been repeatedly and consistently viewed as inferior politically, economically and socially,” Emi said. “This movie negates the preconceived notion that Africans are inferior and puts Africa in a light that has never been seen before, and I think that is one of the greatest messages of the movie.”
Emi believes the overall message of the film is that all Africans must be responsible for taking care of one another.
“This movie exhibits the relationship between Africans and the African diaspora, and how these two people, although they are the same and both have roots in Africa, have completely different views of each other and the disconnection between Africa and her people,” he said.
Emi is hesitant to call “Black Panther” a turning point rather than an isolated success, but he sees it as a symbolic film, one that Africans everywhere should see.
“I would also submit that even though this movie is a symbolic gain for the global African community there is still work to be done to dismantle the institution that perpetuates and reinforces white supremacy around the world and subjugates the African community,” Emi said.
Alfred Hines, a BOND member, felt the movie shined a new light in portrayal and gave newer generations role models to look up to in their own communities.
“It was important that ‘Black Panther’ was released as African-Americans, or people of color as we’re so affectionately called, struggled for years to gain the proper amount of positive representation on television and film,” Hines said.
The recent films featuring black leads have been refreshing for him because they do not follow similar tropes of previous films where there were never happy endings or attributes for black characters.
“Those movies were turning points in itself by having a black actor lead in a horror film (‘Get Out’) and not get killed or have four amazing black women show a different side of themselves,” he said. “’Black Panther’ was something most people have never seen before; it was embodied in black excellence, black loyalty, black everything.”
For senior Belkisa Nuhanovic seeing the film for the first time was an enlightening experience. She was inspired by the approaches the film took with costume design and setting after discovering both were inspired by African cultures.
Nuhanovic’s take from the film was that it will ultimately be a turning point for Hollywood.
“Earning $500 million in four days is record breaking, and Hollywood should acknowledge that,” she said. “Representation was so important in the movie because it is refreshing to see someone of color as a king or queen, an engineer and spy instead of a drug dealer. I think that representation will inspire boys and girls of color to achieve more in life instead of what TV depicts them as.”
Mya Pope, secretary of Black Student Union, believes that with the success of the film it is time for Hollywood to embrace more black directors and casts.
“Since television and movies are prominent in our nation, it is important to represent every group, whether it be race, sexual orientation, religion, to be integrated in because that’s the reality of our world,” she said. “That representation brings so many benefits, like role models for younger generations and to see someone who looks like you doing amazingly cool things is so inspiring for all children who are very visual.”