“It was a good movie,” said Keilan Thomas, 17, who attended a special screening for Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach members at the Edwards Long Beach 26 IMAX theater Thursday afternoon.
“There was a lot of action going on, it was really cool,” Thomas said of the highly anticipated Marvel superhero film.
“I liked it because, whether you’re born in America or not, you still have African roots,” noted Amya Roundtree, 12, after she came out of the same free screening. “It represented Africa in a very good way, because the people realized that they were doing stuff wrong and tried to correct that.”
“Black Panther,” which opened widely Thursday night, is much more than Marvel’s latest superhero superproduction.
The movie is the biggest Hollywood’s ever made that’s set primarily in Africa, with an almost all-black cast of actors from around the world.
Directed by African-American Ryan Coogler (“Creed,” “Fruitvale Station”), it portrays the fictional kingdom of Wakanda as technologically advanced, efficiently co-run by liberated women as powerful as Chadwick Boseman’s costume-wearing king character, and as prosperously independent as it is politically complex.
It’s a positive vision of Africa and its culture rarely seen on the big screen – and never before on this scale – filled with role models who also exhibit relatable human flaws.
Understandably, then, African-Americans across the country are as eager to see “Black Panther” as the loyal masses of comic book movie fans. Community groups planned numerous screening events for this weekend.
The showing for 230 members of Boys & Girls Clubs of Long Beach at the Edwards IMAX was among the first. Offered by and paid for by IMAX and Regal Cinemas, it was a chance for the kids, many of whom come from disadvantaged area homes, to be the first to see the biggest, action-packed movie of the season for free.
So, y’know, stoked.
“I think that their initial reactions will be that,” BGCLB’s director of events and marketing Kari Cho said with a chuckle. “But once they have some time to sit and think about what actually happened in the movie, I hope that it prompts some good discussions with their peers and with the staff. With what’s going on in the world right now, there are a lot of good things that can come of this.”
As they emerged from the “Black Panther” screening, the youths indeed had a lot to say.
“It actually did a really good job of presenting the women because, right now, women don’t have enough power,” observed Brooklynn Lodevico, 17. “That made for a really good perspective in the movie; maybe it’ll make people’s views change a little bit because of how powerful the women are in it.”
Twelve-year-old Akayjia Taylor also liked the smart, formidable ladies played by Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright and others in the movie.
“Oh yes, ’cause they were powerful!” she enthused.
Jevon Fuse, 18, agreed that “Black Panther’s” women came off as quite formidable. Asked if that was a good or a scary thing, he admitted “Both! They were empowering and powerful.”
“It made us as African people, African-Americans, proud to know that we can play as powerful of a role as any other actors,” Evan Caldwell, 17, said of the movie overall. “It just shows African-Americans can do much, as much as any other race can.”
Another group screening, for about 30 members of the Jack and Jill of America Inc. Pasadena Chapter is scheduled for Friday night at the United Artists La Canada 8. A national organization of mothers with children aged 2 to 18, Jack and Jill strives to nurture future African-American leaders in a variety of ways.
“It was my idea and I sort of organized it,” said 18-year-old James Wilcox, the Pasadena Chapter’s fundraising chair. “I knew that this film was coming out for awhile and I thought, Black History Month, this would be a good idea for something for us to do.
“It’s really important that African-American kids see themselves in a hero, and not just a sidekick character but someone who’s a king, of all positions,” added Wilcox, a longtime superhero comics and movie fan. “Someone with leadership skills and a confident, silent strength to them. Their only role models don’t have to be rappers and basketball players.”
Though he’s only seen the film’s trailer and read “Black Panther” comics so far, aspiring filmmaker Wilcox has a pretty good idea of what to expect Friday night.
“I can’t really think of a movie – and a big-budget film – where we’ve seen Africa in such a positive light,” he said. “Wakanda is not a real country by any means, but you can make connections to the real Africa. A lot of what we think socially about other cultures, a lot of people get from movies. I think a lot of people immediately associate a negative connotation when they hear ‘Africa’; this movie could change that dialogue by referencing the continent’s rich history and culture. It shows the beauty of Africa.”