Black Panther — on and off-camera — is a woke superhero fantasy set in today’s reality
ATLANTA (The Undefeated ) — Tucked away on a soundstage, about 6 miles from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was buried in 1968, a cinematic marvel, Black Panther, is being born. Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” is blaring from a neighboring stage, while crew members — a bunch of them women, rocking low-maintenance goddess braids — work.
Atlanta is one of this nation’s most recognized chocolate cities. It’s 54% black, even with the rapidly changing demographics of gentrification. Because of that, and because of the history of the American South, it’s appropriate that when Marvel Studios finally made the decision to launch a new character — the iconic tribal hero that is T’Challa, the Black Panther — it went south of the Mason-Dixon to make it happen.
There’s also a major tax credit for filming in Georgia that changed the game a few years back — it’s now the No. 3 filming location in the U.S., behind New York and California. In addition to Black Panther, Marvel filmed Ant-Man (2015), Captain America: Civil War (2016) and last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in Atlanta. It was back when the studio started shooting those projects in Atlanta, that Nate Moore, the lone African-American producer in the film division at Marvel, wasn’t sure whether making a Black Panther stand-alone film would be a reality.
And yet. The day’s Black Panther scenes are being shot on the Sony Screen Gems lot, under its code name, Motherland, so that no one in the area knows what’s actually being filmed.
#BlackPantherSoLit? You bet your Wakandan ass it is.
In July of 1966, when the Black Panther character debuted in a Fantastic Four comic, America was in the midst of urgent civil unrest. Long-standing racist practices in the United States were still in effect, and black folks were past the breaking point. The actual Black Panther Party was founded in October of that year in Oakland, California.
But it took another two years (exactly 50 years ago) until keystone events like the Civil Rights Act of 1968 were put in place. James Brown’s “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” was loosed. Two newly minted Olympians, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, while wearing human rights badges, raised their fists in a Black Power salute on the ceremony podium in Mexico City.
But on the 26th day of shooting Black Panther, it’s the middle of Black History Month 2017. We’re 30 days into Donald Trump’s presidency. Michael Flynn has just resigned as national security adviser from the new administration. And Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is clotheslining men.