Djimon Hounsou says Black Panther was a "historical" event when it opened in Africa last year. In addition to being the first superhero movie to feature an African protagonist and mostly black cast, Black Panther was a massive global box office success and a full-blown cultural phenomenon in early 2018. Ryan Coogler's Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure has since gone on to become a legitimate awards season contender, having earned both a PGA nomination for Best Picture and Writers Guide nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in the past week alone.
Black Panther follows T'Challa - Chadwick Boseman, reprising his role from 2016's Captain America: Civil War - as the character attempts to settle into his new position as King of Wakanda. It wasn't the first movie to feature a black superhero of the Marvel variety (hi Blade!), but Black Panther nevertheless set a new benchmark for representation in superhero cinema and was the first major tentpole to really celebrate Africa and its people (through the lens of the MCU, of course). Hounsou, who was born in Benin, has since discussed his excitement about how the film will continue to impact Africa and its population in the future.
Screen Rant visited the Captain Marvel set last year and got a chance to interview Hounsou, who reprises his Guardians of the Galaxy role as Korath the Pursuer in the film. The actor admitted that as he excited as he is about Carol Danvers' solo movie, he's even more excited to see how Black Panther affects the filmmaking industry (and the world at large) in the future. He went on to discuss how the movie was truly an "event" when it premiered in Africa last year:
Well the thrill for me this time around is not even so much about this film, other than the fact that it's great to be part of this one, but I think the one that really leverage all films for me, it's Black Panther. In a way that I've never heard in my own country, championing our kids, going to movies. Parents are even putting money on the side for them to just get that one ticket to go and see a movie like that. It was historical. I mean, it gives me chills. You guys don't know here, how it is over there. We rarely ever- don't have many theaters in the country to begin with, and the couple of theaters that we have... You have Universal, Vivendi, you name it, the French company, that's going around certain countries in Africa and opening theaters, a chain of theaters.
Basically, Black Panther came out the date it came out here, came out there the same time, same day, and it was unbelievable to see African kids really driven to go see a film for the first time. It's rare. Do you see what I mean? And that really made that film, and made the minority, the people that we less see on screen, as heroes. All of a sudden, have a place to have an identity on screen, and that was quite powerful. And I think it revolutionized all stories of that nature, of superheroes now. Now I think for all superhero films, gives even better leverage in a way a lot of people, even in a minority who were never really excited about those type of films, now are gonna be looking at it because they're also looking at it with the livelihood of Black Panther within the whole setting. I'm guessing it'll really have a strong impact going forward.
Having acted in movies professionally for nearly thirty years (and earned multiple Oscar nods for his efforts), Hounsou has a well-informed perspective on the global filmmaking industry and its historical relationship with Africa. As the actor noted, it will be interesting to see how Black Panther's success goes on to impact not only representation in Hollywood productions, but even how movies are produced and distributed in Africa in the future. It hasn't even been a year since the film hit theaters, but its historic significance has already been widely recognized and will doubt continue to make itself felt in the future, in the way that Hounsou mentioned.
In the meantime, Black Panther is breaking fresh ground for the superhero genre when it comes to awards season success. The film is currently joined in its venture by Sony's animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a movie that's also been celebrated for its representation and craftsmanship (among other things). Between the pair of them, 2018 was a great year for the genre and served to illustrate how these works of pop art can have an impact in the real-world, in addition to the box office and cultural landscape. Here's hoping the future is equally rewarding, as far as the ripple effects of Black Panther's continued success are concerned.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019