Next month, Marvel’s highly anticipated superhero movie Black Panther will transport audiences to Wakanda, a fictional African kingdom that happens to be the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, and home to untold wealth. The film, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, thus offers a very different view of Africa than the one presented by President Trump when he reportedly referred to some African nations as “sh—hole countries” during a recent Oval Office immigration meeting.
The cast and creators of Black Panther have long expressed the importance of representation onscreen, and at the world premiere Monday night in Hollywood, they discussed how the film itself serves as a rebuttal of Trump’s purported remarks.
John Kani, who portrays King T’Chaka, the slain father of Boseman’s title character, told EW at the premiere that Black Panther reflects African history and strength. The South African actor referenced his own family history as something that makes him proud to be part of the world of Wakanda. “Africa has survived for centuries; today Africa stands strong,” he said in regard to Trump’s reported comments. “We are not going to spend time discussing it. We are not a sh—hole country — we’re the greatest kingdoms of the world. I am a descendant of great kingdoms. My grandfather and my great-great grandfather were kings and princes. When someone says something that really displays extreme ignorance, it doesn’t warrant my second thinking about it.”
Florence Kasumba, who portrays Wakandan security chief Ayo, told EW she feels Black Panther sends a positive response to the president and the world about Africa. “We get to see a country that is civilized, which has the best technology, and that is something that people haven’t talked about,” she said. “We always get this sort of picture about a country where people are not educated, and that’s going to change and people will get a different idea.”
Co-writer Joe Robert Cole says he and Coogler were always resolute about writing a script that shows “a self-[determining], advanced African nation that isn’t influenced by Westernized views, and in that sense it determines what it is.” For Cole and Coogler, the Trump remarks were just another moment in a long history of mischaracterizing the African continent.
“We tried to root the story as close as possible in real-world Africa and be respectful of a place that frankly has been caricatured unfairly so often in the past,” Cole told EW. “That was a really important thing for Ryan, and he really pushed the charge with all of us. The movie can speak to that more than a message directly to anyone.”
Meanwhile, recent Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya, who joins Black Panther as the title character’s best friend W’Kabi, told EW the president’s remarks hardly merited a response. “I don’t worry about what he says. My family’s from Uganda. I don’t care what he says about anything,” he said. “That’s where my family’s from — he can’t hurt me.”
Black Panther hits theaters Feb. 16.
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