Why The ‘Black Panther’ matters

In the midst of Black History Month, Marvel studios released one of its most critically acclaimed films of the last years – dare say of the decade – during an era where black identity and consciousness are more important than ever. The Black Panther, even though it follows the classical superhero formula (it is still a Marvel movie), it reaches deep levels of representing and understanding the black identity. And that is groundbreaking.

The story follows the fictional country of Wakanda in the heart of Africa, where, hidden from the rest of the world, its residents are enjoying the wealths and advantages of vibranium: a valuable and powerful mineral. This mineral is used for hundreds of years in Wakanda and has helped the area to develop technologically and socially in such a way that every western country would kill for. That is why Wakanda’s powerful king, the Black Panther, has a very important mission: protect the country and its people from anything that jeopardizes their prosperity.

But now Wakanda’s old king is dead, which means that his son T’Challa is claiming the throne. Wakanda might be a powerful and progressive state, but it stays true to African history. T’Challa needs to claim the throne through an ancient ritual where warriors of every tribe in Wakanda challenge him to a fight. T’Challa, as a rightful heir, wins the battle and becomes the king of Wakanda. He is offered to drink vibranium which gives him superhuman powers that are necessary to protect the identity and wealth of the country. He is now the Black Panther. Soon he realizes that certain amounts of vibranium have reached the global black market. With the help of his fierce warriors, T’Challa will have to bring vibranium home and ensure that the truth about Wakanda stays hidden. But he will soon be confronted by his father’s past.

The Black Panther’s story unfolds with the help of the classical narration formula, where elements of family drama merge with superhero characteristics. Ghosts of the past are appearing when a young black American, Killmonger, is desperately trying to obtain the valuable Wakanda resource. He is the movie’s villain, an outsider who is deeply defined by his own personal story; growing up in the streets of Los Angeles, he is the victim of an old mistake T’Challa’s father made. Killmonger is not the typical revengeful Marvel maniac who wants to destroy the superhero at all costs. He is much more. The film makes sure that we see his reasons, feelings and motives so that we can understand the story’s ethical dilemma: is Wakanda responsible for the black people who suffer throughout the world or should Wakanda preserve its technological innovations and stay silent?

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships. Because they knew death was better than bondage.” – Killmonger

The king of Wakanda will do anything to protect the country’s resources and secret weapons, so that the imperialists of the world won’t exploit them, as the colonialists of the previous centuries did with Africa. But Killmonger too, would do anything to bring justice to the global black community; the powerful weapons of Wakanda will destroy anyone that ever harmed Africa and will finally give its people what they deserve. The deep political messages of the film manage to transcend its story and form, while the question pends: what is the responsibility of a wealthy African country towards the African diaspora and the world?

This film is a platform of foregrounding the identity of Africa and the history of the continent. Wakanda’s political and social status is put next to Africa’s; it represents many African countries, if those countries were left alone by the European colonial powers of the past, who ravaged the continent from its people and its wealth. Thus, Wakanda wants to be left alone and continue its progress, away from the rest of the world. It needs its isolation in order to thrive. The message, thus, is clear: while modern Africa suffers the consequences of white colonialism (the film condemns that in its way), it needs to be left alone.

This is the first time a mainstream blockbuster movie is including powerful black heroes; this is very rare, especially in this movie genre. White directors, writers and actors have been dominating the entire genre (and the entire movie industry) for decades, excluding their black colleagues. This is changing. The importance of the film’s representation might not be so obvious to white audiences, since we haven’t experienced the marginalization in the arts as black people have. But consider what it means for any black kid to watch black people be represented in this way; they won’t feel marginalized, they won’t feel excluded. They will feel they belong. That is why this movie is so important.

What is also amazing in this movie is the unapologetic representation of the female. All female characters are presented equal to the male ones; they are strong, independent, powerful, and above all their opinion matters. They are owing their own identity. The film doesn’t have to explain its choices on the matter – as Wonder Woman did – it is just how it should be. The character of Okoye, the loyal warrior of the king, is so empowering that I got the chills while watching her on screen (actress Danai Gurira is equally inspiring in real life).

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER
L to R: Okoye (Danai Gurira), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Ayo (Florence Kasumba)
Credit: Matt Kennedy/©Marvel Studios 2018

The aesthetic of Afrofuturism, pervades the film and elevates it to modernity. For those who don’t know (I didn’t either before writing this) Afrofuturism refers to the point where African or African-American culture meets technology. Specifically, it combines science and historical fiction, fantasy and an ideology that focuses on African history (Afrocentrism). The Black Panther has Afrofuturism as its base, showing the importance of a powerful and influential culture that has always been marginalized throughout its history.

The deep political messages of the film overshadow its typical Hollywood narration, structure and humor. When you ignore the shiny super-hero packaging of a Marvel movie, those messages stand proud in front of the world. In this world where solidarity has lost its meaning, the film stands strong with its humanitarian sensitivity, powerful black and female representations, African history and identity; it is a beautiful, bold and honest film.

Call me by your name (2017)

Summer of 1983, Northern Italy. Seventeen year-old Elio lives with his family in their summer house, when Oliver, his father’s research assistant arrives. Oliver will stay with them for the whole summer to work with Elio’s dad on Greek-Roman art sculptures. Elio will soon be intrigued by this new guest, whose magnetic presence will ignite something inside Elio, something new and undiscovered.

The new film by Luca Guadagnino is the big surprise of this year’s award season. With 4 Oscar nominations {Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)}, and already more than 40 other wins (including the recent Golden Globes), Call me by your name is a breathtaking love story between two young men set in the 80s. Written by James Ivory and Luca Guadagnino, the film is based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman and it is the final installment in Guadagnino’s thematic Desire trilogy, following I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015).



The story simple: Elio volunteers to show Oliver around the area. The two of them will develop a friendship that will ultimately expose their deep desire for each other. Elio is fascinated and at the same time irritated by Oliver’s infatuating personality. Oliver is intelligent, handsome and absolutely captivating; he flirts with women and knows how to enjoy life, while Elio is young, shy and inexperienced. Through the explorations of their surroundings, they also explore their own sexuality and consequently their own identity. What we witness on screen is a marvelous portrait of love and desire that unlocks new and wonderful possibilities. Elio and Oliver fall madly in love, while Elio discovers his sexuality and his own self through Oliver. What they have is effortless and natural; it is real.

Guadagnino has managed to create a film that looks effortless. The natural way with which everything flows is one of the film’s best qualities. The entirety of the shots are flawless: he uses intense close-ups to demonstrate Elio’s emotional state, while he foregrounds the relationship’s course and Elio’s sexual journey. The erotic atmosphere of the film is smooth and comes out naturally due to the impeccable chemistry of the two actors. Chalamet has righteously won all those awards, while he flirts with his first Oscar this year. His performance as the frustrated Elio who explores his sexuality through his relationship with Oliver is amazing. His body language conveys the impatience and desire of a young man and it expresses his character’s inner world with such an integrity that his performance becomes almost pure.

The Italian landscape and the carelessness of the summer create an environment that allows the audience to discover without haste the relationship of Elio and Oliver. When swimming and laying under the sun become priorities, then somehow the process of realizing yourself and your needs is unveiled. The amazing score is also contributing to experience the film as effortlessly and naturally as possible, since the music’s soft and restless notes reveal a romanticism that is comparable to Shakespearean love.

This film is a landmark of love, and particularly gay love; one that is unique, deep and universal. Elio and Oliver’s story is one that doesn’t happen every day. At one of the last scenes of the film, Elio’s father is openly talking to his son about love and desire; he talks with honesty and compassion about all those things every young person wants to hear from their parent. Truthful and inspiring words that place the film on a cinematic pedestal, one that is carved with beautiful and exquisite Greek-Roman details.

This is the type of film that leaves its mark on the viewer; it is the type of film which is above all an experience. You witness step by step the development of those characters and their relationship, you feel them, and along with them, you discover parts in yourself you didn’t know exist. Parts that talk about deep love and are authentic. Call me by your name is an intense portrait of love; a love that has the power to change, transform and shape one’s life. Elio and Oliver meet in Northern Italy only to discover that by loving each other, they ultimately learn to love and appreciate who they really are. And that is priceless.

(Photos taken from the web.)

Η Αφιξη (2016)

Αυτή η ταινία είναι αναμφισβήτητα μία από τις καλύτερες που απολαύσαμε φέτος τον χειμώνα. Μπορεί να κατατάσσεται στην κατηγορία του «εξωγήινου» είδους, κάτι που μας είχε εξαρχής αποσυντονίσει, αφού αναμέναμε δράση, πόλεμο και πολλά οπτικά εφέ, όμως η ταινία αυτή ασχολείται με κάτι πολύ διαφορετικό, και γι’ αυτό την λατρέψαμε.

Αποφάσισα να γράψω, μετά από πολύ καιρό, – και μία ομολογουμένως εμφανή απουσία – για μία από τις, πλέον, πιο αγαπημένες μου ταινίες. Μέσα από λίγες σκέψεις θα προσπαθήσω να δώσω την ουσία της ταινίας, έτσι όπως την αντιλαμβάνομαι εγώ, ελπίζοντας αυτό το άρθρο να εξάψει παρόμοια αγάπη και θαυμασμό.

Όλα ξεκινούν με την άφιξη 12 αεροσκαφών εξωγήινης προέλευσης σε διαφορετικά σημεία του πλανήτη. Αυτά τα αεροσκάφη είναι άγνωστο εάν ήρθαν με ειρηνικές ή πολεμικές διαθέσεις. Η παρουσία τους στον πλανήτη Γη προκαλεί φόβο, παράνοια και άπειρες ερωτήσεις στην επιστημονική και μη ανθρώπινη κοινότητα. Σε αυτό το σημείο, η καθηγήτρια γλωσσολογίας Louise Banks καλείται να μεταφράσει, με την βοήθεια μιας εξειδικευμένης ομάδας, τα σήματα που στέλνουν οι εξωγήινοι, ώστε να καταστεί κατανοητό ο λόγος που ήρθαν στη Γη.

Η ίδια η Louise φαίνεται ότι είναι συναισθηματικά απασχολημένη με το θάνατο της κόρης της. Για αυτό το λόγο η αφήγηση βασίζεται στην συναισθηματική κατάσταση της ηρωίδας και το πώς αντιλαμβάνεται την πραγματικότητα γύρω της. Είναι μόνη και απομονωμένη: οι μνήμες και οι σκέψεις της καταλαμβάνουν και καταβροχθίζουν την καθημερινότητά της, ακόμη και όταν καλείται να συνεργαστεί με την παγκόσμια γλωσσολογική και επιστημονική κοινότητα. Ή έστω αυτό βλέπουμε εξαρχής.

Καθώς όμως προχωρά η ταινία, και η ίδια γίνεται μέρος της πρώτης επαφής με την εξωγήινη ζωή, τα σπασμένα κομμάτια του παζλ αρχίζουν να ενώνονται, δημιουργώντας ένα ψηφιδωτό στιγμών και καταστάσεων που επαναπροσδιορίζουν την ηρωίδα και την ψυχολογική της κατάσταση. Τα σκορπισμένα αφηγηματικά κομμάτια που παρακολουθούμε σιγά σιγά δημιουργούν έναν κόσμο και μία πραγματικότητα που από το προσωπικό μεταπηδά με ποιητική και μελαγχολική δεξιότητα στο καθολικό.

Η ανθρωπότητα και η συναισθηματική και πνευματική της αντίληψη έχει τη δυνατότητα να εξελιχθεί σε κάτι που ξεπερνά την κοινή λογική. Εμφανίζεται μία μοναδική ευκαιρία για το ανθρώπινο είδος που είναι ικανή να προσφέρει ένα είδους διορατικότητας. Το εξωγήινο στοιχείο παύει να είναι κάτι το εξωπραγματικό και ξένο, γίνεται ένα με την ανθρώπινη συνείδηση και μεταμορφώνεται σε κάτι νέο, που τελικά γίνεται με τη σειρά του κοινό και γνώριμο.

Η γλωσσολογική πλευρά της ιστορίας προσδίδει μία νέα και ιδιαίτερη βάση στην ταινία (πρώτη φορά γίνεται η γλωσσολογία μέρος της κύριας δομής μιας ταινίας: άλλος ένας λόγος που την λάτρεψα), και προσφέρει κάτι απροσδόκητο: έναν τρόπο επικοινωνίας με ότι πάντοτε φοβόμασταν. Το άγνωστο, το ξένο, το διαφορετικό.

Η επαφή μεταξύ του ανθρώπινου και του εξωγήινου στοιχείου δεν βασίζεται στα οπτικά εφέ και στην αέναη ανάγκη του ανθρώπου να προσπαθεί να σώσει τη Γη από τους πολεμοχαρείς εξωγήινους, αλλά στην αλληλεγγύη, στην συνεργασία, στην ανάγκη για επαφή και κατανόηση.

Με εξαιρετική φωτογραφία και ίσως την πιο εύθραυστη ερμηνεία της Amy Adams έως τώρα, «Η Άφιξη» ανασυντάσσει την έννοια της εξωγήινης απειλής και εμπνέει με τις πανέμορφες χρωματικές παλέτες των πλάνων της.

(Photo: Google images)