Black Panther hits theaters in 24 days and more information about the film, including its portrayal of the fictional country of Wakanda and its culture, has now been made available. With ticket sales outpacing Captain America: Civil War and people organizing fundraisers for underprivileged kids to see Black Panther in theaters, it seems most everyone is talking about T’Challa and his homeland right now.
There’s a lot to talk about, too. From Wakanda’s official language to the indication that Black Panther visits outer space, it’s a movie filled with a lot of mysteries. No place in the film is more mysterious, however, than Wakanda itself. Marvel has focused on bringing the country to life and taking care of its different cultures and the locations that will be seen on screen. There’s a lot to dissect. During our Black Panther set visit, Screen Rant had an opportunity to discuss the film’s portrayal of Wanakda’s environments and cultures with producer Nate Moore. Moore, a producer on Captain America: Civil War, was excited to talk about the film and just how much work has gone into creating Wakanda, “a love letter to Africa.”
Wakanda is a country the size of New Jersey and according to Moore, it was important to the production to have it not feel “like a city” when compared to some of the other unique locations in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wakanda in the comics often feels like a city but the production felt a real responsibility make something unique and different that honored African culture. According to Moore, looking to African history helped influence the film, from choosing Wakanda’s language to helping shape the country’s cultures:
Part of the storytelling was that Wakanda was one of the first peoples and as they spread out they took their traditions and their architecture and their pottery with them and that became the basis for Kenya and that became the basis for the Central Republic of the Congo. So it allowed us then to pull from everywhere rather than just saying it’s just inspired by this one place because there’s so much great design honestly. We wanted it to be, in a way, a love letter to Africa which you don’t get to see a lot on film.
Crafting Wakanda became an exercise for the production staff in showcasing and sharing African culture. The country has a fantastical quality that makes it more the equivalent of Asgard or the MCU’s New York City, more than anything else. All of that ties into Wakanda and the discussion of its “public face versus its real face” in the film, according to Moore:
Because it is a hidden society in a way that it’s never been in publishing, what is the public face of Wakanda versus the real face? I think you’ll get a sense of how they’ve been hidden for so long and what is actually behind the curtain. All that is part of the storytelling.
When creating Wakanda, it’s clear that the producers approached the country as if they were crafting another character and treated its culture like they might treat anyone on staff in front of the camera. The important thing was that they did it with an eye for detail and respect for Africa and African culture in the real world, which helped make it feel real. As an example, Moore cited M’Baku, also known as Man-ape. As a character, Man-Ape is an offensive stereotype for both Africans and African-Americans. Focusing on his place as the leader of the religious minority in Wakanda helped him find a place in the bigger picture and kept him in the story, says Moore:
“We wanted all of these characters to live in a real world. We thought that was really interesting. Even characters who were fraught with plot became politically charged.”
Everything about the film, from its comic origin story to the dedication of its actors, suggests that Black Panther will do right by the fictional land and people of Wakanda on the big screen. One can hope that this “love letter to Africa” will continue to inspire black creators to tell more stories like T’Challa’s.
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