A group of men gather in front of a poster advertising the film "Black Panther" on its opening night of screenings at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 cinemas in Manhattan. (Reuters)
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LAGOS – Film fans, actors and comic enthusiasts in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos have been flocking to screenings of Marvel superhero movie Black Panther which opened in Africa’s most populous country this week.
The Walt Disney Co movie, which features a predominantly black cast, is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It tells the story of the new king, T‘Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), who is challenged by rival factions.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is also a cultural powerhouse that boasts the continent’s biggest film industry, known as Nollywood. Lagos is the country’s filmmaking hub.
At a screening of Black Panther on Friday in Lekki, an upmarket district of Lagos, Nollywood stars mingled with TV personalities and locals. The showing was one of a number of screenings in the city this week.
Most people were dressed in traditional Nigerian robes and gowns, with some opting to wear specially made attire in keeping with the film’s futuristic take on African garments.
“Black Panther is a film that celebrates black excellence. Bringing it to Nigeria is especially exciting,” said Bolaji Kekere-Ekun, a 33-year-old filmmaker.
“The people who made the film were very specific about the references they used in relationship to Africa. They are pulling from the best fashion and art,” he said.
The fictional African country is depicted as a verdant land with stunning waterfalls where spacecraft designed like tribal masks soar over a modern metropolis.
The portrayal of Wakanda as a futuristic, wealth-laden nation was welcomed by local actress Ijeoma Grace Agu, who used body paint and a two-piece outfit as a homage to the film’s fashion aesthetic and said she was excited to watch the film.
“For once we are not just dressed in slave clothes or doing slavery or brutality. For once we are dressed in good clothes,” said Agu.
Directed by black director Ryan Coogler and featuring actors including Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong‘o and Forest Whittaker, the film has received widespread critical acclaim after years of criticism about the under-representation of black people in Hollywood.
“Seeing us exude power and strength, seeing our culture, our high fashion sense portrays us in a different light,” said Agu. (Reuters)