Black Women in Film

Black Panther Footage Reveals the Ferocious Female Warriors

…of Wakanda

April 18, 2017 12:13 pm

Update 7:35 E.T.: A Marvel representative reached out to say that the nature of the relationship between Danai Gurira’s Okoye and Florence Kasumba‘s Ayo in Black Panther is not a romantic one and that specific love storyline from the comic World of Wakanda was not used as a source.

Whether or not he had the approval of Disney when he did so, Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon caused quite a stir in the April issue of Attitude—both of hopeful expectations and of conservative pushback—when he touted Josh Gad’s character LeFou and his “exclusively gay moment.” Though Condon surely had his heart in the right place, the phrase overpromised on what the film ultimately underdelivered: the moment comes when LeFou ends the movie by dancing, briefly with a man. O.K. However, early footage of Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther screened for journalists Monday night movie promises much more.

The scene in question features Walking Dead star Danai Gurira dancing on a boat with her fellow Dora Milaje, i.e., Black Panther’s personal female bodyguards. These women—first introduced to moviegoers in Captain America: Civil War— are the warriors who watch over Chadwick Boseman’s royal family. In Civil War, Uganda-born actress Florence Kasumba made an instant impression on audiences as one member of the select group when she curtly ordered Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow to “move” aside for T’Challa.

In the rough cut of this Black Panther scene, we see Gurira’s Okoye and Kasumba’s Ayo swaying rhythmically back in formation with the rest of their team. Okoye eyes Ayo flirtatiously for a long time as the camera pans in on them. Eventually, she says, appreciatively and appraisingly, “You look good.” Ayo responds in kind. Okoye grins and replies, “I know.”

This quick moment between two warrior women on their way to T’Challa’s coronation leans into a current very popular run of the Black Panther comic. A 2016 spin-off called World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, and Yona Harvey is all about the relationship between two members of the Dora Milaje. The official description:

A Wakandan love story—its tenderness matched only by its brutality.

You know them now as The Midnight Angels, but in this story they are

just Ayo and Aneka, young women recruited to become Dora Milaje, an

elite task force trained to protect the crown at all costs. What happens when your nation needs your hearts

and minds, but you already gave them to each other?

Other footage from the film screened early for reporters centers more closely on T’Challa, including scenes of a traditional and elaborate Wakandan ceremony, and a shoot-out in a South Korea casino featuring Andy Serkis’s Claw and Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross. For fans of Lupita Nyong’o, there was also a pair of scenes showing her character dancing (she gets her own boat) and taking out several armed guards.

The costumes in Black Panther—especially the ones worn by the Dora Milaje—are truly dazzling, with a lot of bright colors and elaborate patterns. Angela Bassett, as T’Challa’s mother and Queen of Wakanda, sports a jaw-dropping coiffure of snow-white dreadlocks. According to the production team, director Ryan Coogler was interested in giving Black Panther—the star of which debuted in Civil War—an updated look that was more faithful to the current run of comics. And though Marvel didn’t screen any footage of Michael B. Jordan in costume—he’s playing villainous Erik Killmonger—concept art tacked to the Marvel office walls revealed a fearsome mask compete with horns and mane.

In other words: even if Marvel and superhero fatigue is setting in, rest assured that Black Panther isn’t going to look like anything you’ve seen from them before.

Full Screen


See the Tony-Nominated Costumes from Eclipsed and the Sketches that Inspired Them

Photo: Left, courtesy of Clint Ramos; Right, courtesy of Joan Marcus.

Advocacy Documentary “Black Women in Medicine”

STEM advocate highlights women and people of color in documentary film

URU, The Right to Be, Inc.

Crystal Emery, a quadriplegic filmmaker and author, encourages women and people of color to defy the odds. Emery’s biographical photo-essay book, “Against All Odds: Black Women in Medicine,” profiles more than 100 African American women in medicine. It is used in her Changing the Face of STEM initiative to encourage people of color and women to pursue STEM careers.

Filmmaker Crystal Emery aired her documentary “Black Women in Medicine” Thursday, April 13, as part of her campaign to attract more people of color and women to careers in science, technology, engineering and medicine.

Emery, a quadriplegic who has directed two feature films, written a book, written and directed a play and founded a non-profit, encourages others to defy the odds. She has two odds in mind: African-Americans receive 7.6 percent of all STEM degrees in America, and less than one percent of all scientists and engineers are black women.

The film shows rarely seen footage of African-American women practicing medicine during critical operations, emergency care and community wellness sessions.

“It’s all about exposure. It’s crucial to introduce young people to ideas and careers early on so that they can begin thinking seriously about their higher education and work life during their formative years,” said Emery.

“We hope this film and Emery’s ongoing work inspires more minority students to pursue careers in medicine to help meet a growing demand for doctors across the country,” said Mary L. Wilson, executive medical director of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia.


‘Girl Trip’

Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith Joining Regina Hall in ‘Girl Trip’



Queen Latifah (left), Jada Pinkett Smith
Latifah: Noam Galai/WireImage. Todd Williamson/Getty Images for CinemaCon.

Will Packer will produce the feature, written by ‘Black-ish’ creator Kenya Barris and ‘Barbershop: The Next Cut’ scribe Tracy Oliver.

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith are ready for a Girl Trip.

The actresses are in final negotiations to join Regina Hall in super producer Will Packer’s next feature for Universal.

Girl Trip follows four best friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, where friendships are rekindled and wild sides are revealed.

Best Man Holiday helmer Malcolm D. Lee will direct from a screenplay by Barbershop: The Next Cut scribe Tracy Oliver and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris.

James Lopez, head of motion pictures for Will Packer Productions, will executive produce, while Sara Scott will oversee the project on behalf of Universal.

Girl Trip has been dated for a July 21, 2017, release.


Why she chose Broadway over Hollywood

Tony nominee Lupita Nyong’o explains why she chose Broadway over Hollywood

“I had to do it, expectations be damned.”

Lupita Nyong’o as “The Girl” in Broadway’s Eclipsed. Photo by Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images

After Lupita Nyong’o won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, she was hit with the same question many Oscar winners face: What’s next?

In selecting her follow-up roles, Nyong’o surprised more than a few casual observers by not chasing big, awards-baiting film work. First, she provided the voices of Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ Maz Kanata — the film’s closest parallel to Yoda — and The Jungle Book‘s protective mother wolf, Raksha. Then she took a step back from film altogether and signed on to star in a play instead.

Of course, it’s not like she chose a simple, throwaway project. Eclipsed, about five women during the Liberian Civil War, earned six Tony nominations this week, including one for Nyong’o (Best Actress in a Leading Role). Eclipsed is also significant for being the first Broadway play to feature a cast and creative team that is entirely black, female, and of African descent. (The play was written by Danai Gurira, who also plays Michonne on The Walking Dead.)

In an essay for the May 3 edition of Lenny Letter, Nyong’o expressed her frustration in response to those confused by her decision to do a play instead of more movies. During a recent round of press, she explained, a journalist asked her a “quite silly” question: “Why would such a big star choose to do such a small play?” She continued:

I mean, I’m an actress; why wouldn’t I want to be in an incredible, gorgeous, meaty piece about the complicated choices of women during wartime? But then it went deeper than that. To me it felt like a question about our value system in this culture, the ways we define success for ourselves as well as others.

… I knew there was a sense of what was expected of me, but this play felt so important to me that I had to do it, expectations be damned.

And taking on Eclipsed wasn’t just a matter of loving the material, though that was obviously the deciding factor. As a black, Mexican-Kenyan actress, Nyong’o writes, she’s all too aware that Hollywood — and society in general — will try to pigeonhole her in clichéd roles:

I think as women, as women of color, as black women, too often we hear about what we “need to do.” How we need to behave, what we need to wear, what’s deemed as too much or not enough, the cultural politics of what society considers appropriate for us and for our lives.

… So often women of color are relegated to playing simple tropes: the sidekick, the best friend, the noble savage, or the clown. We are confined to being a simple and symbolic peripheral character — one who doesn’t have her own journey or emotional landscape.

And so Nyong’o turned to different avenues to direct her own success. She took on the parts of Maz Kanata and Raksha to explore the “singular catharsis [that] can be found in genre storytelling,” and the Eclipsed role of “The Girl” to “share in the incredible (and too rare) freedom of playing a fully rendered African woman.”

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that Nyong’o concludes her passionate, beautifully written letter by declaring that when she looks at Eclipsed, “[I] see nothing about it that is ‘small.'”

You can read Nyong’o’s full essay at Lenny Letter.

Sci-Fi is for Women of Color too!

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