Proud and powerful, the women in majesty in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

The second part of the adventures of the black superhero of the Marvel universe gives pride of place to heroines who are far from being stooges.

When Marvel aired the trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Foreverlast July, this one accumulated 172 million views in 24 hours – almost double the original teaser of Black Panther, the first installment released in 2017. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the latter had reached unexpected box office records, while having to face fears based on stereotypes: would foreign audiences watch a film with a majority black cast? ? Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards, Black Panther answered the question and became the first black superhero movie in history.

T’Challa, the king of Wakanda – and his alter ego, the Black Panther -, brilliantly embodied by the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who died in 2020, are cult characters. The uniqueness of Boseman’s performance helped shape the legacy of Black Panther by inspiring millions of young people around the world to recognize themselves in a black superhero.

But since the beginning of the adventure Black Panther, for much of the public the real rivals of the throne of T’Challa are the Dora Milaje, warrior women. They are the most charismatic figures of Wakanda Forever : Ramonda, the queen of Wakanda, played by the legendary Angela Bassett. Nakia, the spy played by Lupita Nyong’o. Shuri, the potential new Black Panther, played by Letitia Wright.

A celebration of black beauty, black power and women, this afro-futuristic film imagines a new world in which everything converges. Decryption.

On video, Black Panther, Wakanda Foreverthe teaser

The heroines of the film

The distinctive feature of Wakanda Forever is undoubtedly the incisive role of the women of Wakanda, this kingdom of a world located in a continent evoking Africa. Each of the heroines has a specific power: thanks to ancient rituals, Shuri (Letitia Wright), princess of Wakanda and sister of T’Challa, is a martial artist, a scientist and now has all the skills that her brother had .

The queen, Ramonda (Angela Bassett), is the representative of a superpower, Wakanda, which fights to prevent nations like the United States from conquering the hegemony of planetary resources, such as vibranium – a metal with magical powers. . In an open criticism of the USA – portrayed in the film as a racist, capitalist and voracious country – she explains how this metal would constitute a dangerous weapon in the hands of the government. Played by Lupita Nyong’o, Nakia, the spy in the service of Wakanda, as well as the other female characters who defend the kingdom – such as the scientist Riri Williams (new role played by Dominique Thorne) – are superheroines with human characteristics . They are both warriors, healers, mothers, leaders, sisters and keepers of a legacy (T’Challa’s, just like Chadwick Boseman’s). Thanks to them, the imagery of the superhero Black Panther is now only masculine.

During filming, the main actresses of Wakanda Forever – which also include Mabel Cadena, Danai Gurira and Florence Kasumba – said they experienced a true sisterhood on the set, reflecting the feminist spirit of the “Wakanda community”. “We created very well-rounded characters that eliminated a lot of stereotypes about what a superhero should look like or heroism,” said Danai Gurira, who plays Okoye, a patron figure in Wakanda. “I thought to myself: if these girls can do it, I can do more one day”, continues Mabel Cadena.

Asked “Do you think people are more receptive to black women as superheroes?” Angela Bassett replied: “That remains to be seen. Wakanda Forever is likely to arouse a lot of enthusiasm among the spectators. And who will they see? Faces of black women. It’s a powerful image that I love. These days, you don’t have to wait for a few people in top offices to make things happen. According to the absolute heroine of the film, the magnificent Letitia Wright, these women propelled into a heroic space unleash the potential of young girls of color and more generally of all women: “It should become the norm, she said. declared, because there are so many women who are heroic and amazing. We just show part of it on the screen. Black Panther leads us to experience a utopia that we don’t necessarily have in real life.” For Lupita Nyong’o, the undervaluation of women because of their gender does not exist in Wakanda: “We saw it in the first film and that is one of the reasons for its success. This new movie continues the idea that Wakanda is a world where those problems don’t exist. But the question we are addressing is not that of their femininity. It’s about their beliefs, their passions, their loves and their fights, and it creates a solid plot. With any luck, the world as we know it will look at it and come out of it stronger in spite of itself. What I love about the story of Wakanda is that it offers a version of a world that we are striving to achieve.

Lupita Nyong’o at the premiere of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (London, November 3, 2022) TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

A flag of freedom

Of all of them, the term “ancestor” is the one that comes up most often in the film, until it becomes as hammering as a chorus. Wakanda Forever explains through dialogues and images to what extent knowing the history of one’s ancestors and passing it on is one of the pylons for accessing freedom. The film revolves around figures of griots, magic rituals, states of trance and visions of shamans that evoke ancestral African and island cultures. While having the configuration of Unesco, the Queen’s Council is, for example, made up of figures who ensure the protection of Wakanda by respecting firmly rooted customs. We see His Majesty Ramona listening attentively to a wise man whose face is studded with ethnic scarifications (demonstrating membership in a clan, in the manner of traditions in Ghana or Benin) or consulting a guide wearing giant ornamental lip plates, at the image of the Mursi, a tribe that still lives in southwestern Ethiopia.

In video, the clip of lift me upby Rihanna

A sonic attack

After diving into African music for Black Pantherwhich won him an Oscar, the Swedish composer Ludwig Göransson (AdeleChildlish Gambino) embarked on another exciting journey for the joyful soundtrack of Wakanda Forever. He sought out the sounds of Mayan music to illustrate an underwater civilization told in the film (Talokan, a sort of Atlantis), inspired by Mesoamerican and Nigerian cultures. “I realized that Mayan music was gone… forcibly erased from this world. So I started looking for how I could re-imagine it,” says Göransson. The composer traveled to Mexico City with director Ryan Coogler and worked with ethnomusicologists specializing in Mayan culture. They found instruments in the tombs and, by finding flutes with fingerprints on them, they were able to determine how the instruments were played. In the paintings on turtle shells and seashells, they also discovered drawings of musicians.

In Mexico, Göransson recorded the Mayan sounds with indigenous flutes, shells and drums that can be heard resonating in the film. He has also worked with contemporary Mexican rappers and singers who feature in the soundtrack. Among these are Mayan rappers Pat Boy, Yaalen K’uj and All Mayan Winik who perform a superb track titled Laayli’ kuxa’ano’one. We can hear it on the end credits, after the very popular Lift Me Upof Rihanna which captured the most attention.

Through 19 titles and 22 artists, Ludwig Göransson brings to the images of the film a totally unique and immersive sound experience. The composer also did recording sessions in Lagos, Nigeria – where songs like Coming Back For Youperformed by Fireboy DML or a cover No woman No Cry, sung by Tems. One of the finest bits of the film is a haunting and hypnotic melody, Arboles Bajo El Mar, which the composer co-wrote with Vivir Quintana and Mare Advertencia. Some of the very urban music created by Göransson is inspired by Chicago, especially the house and hip-hop that call it home. Also noteworthy is another superb song that evolves throughout the film and is performed by black British star singer, Jorja Smith.

Fashion in the foreground

The question “What are you wearing to the premiere of Black Panther ?” has become a major topic of discussion on social media. Black Twitter led the charge, sharing outfit ideas with the hashtag #BlackPantherSoLit. Magnificent throughout the film, Angela Bassett, Lupita Niongo and Letitia Wright display extraordinary stage costumes in each sequence of Wakanda Forever. All are imagined as a fashion show. Ruth Carter, the film’s costume designer – thirty years of film experience and two Oscar nominations (for Malcolm X and Amistad) – understood the pivotal role clothing would play in the feature film universe and brought to life a true sense of style for the fictional African nation of Wakanda.

Her vision of Wakandan clothing is inspired by traditional and contemporary African fashion. The fabrics are both ethnic and state-of-the-art. The clues they contain help viewers understand Wakanda’s social geography – its political ideologies, cultural norms and labels.

Beautiful as sculptures, the costumes fit together harmoniously and tell a story of their own. The result is a dramatic look that shows Wakandans use clothing as a form of self and community expression, to honor their ancestors, and to maintain a progressive social order. While fashion-centric American films like The devil wears Prada and Sex and the City showcased European haute couture, Wakanda Forever turns to Africa. Ruth Carter immerses us in the history of fashion on the continent and her approach is the same as that for a period film. She researched the textile production, hand-dyeing, and beading techniques of the Tuareg, Maasai, Zulu (and many more) peoples that inspired an eclectic color palette: effervescent green, eggplant, jade, tangerine, and crimson. deep and silver…

The stylist explains that she wanted to “show the world the beauty of tribal costumes and evolve them in a more modern way”, adding that she had seen too many bad representations of African costumes. African fashion has always been cosmopolitan, and Ruth Carter has been careful not to portray it as stuck in the past. The actresses of Wakanda wear tradition, but also become innovative silhouettes that combine Afro-futuristic prints and textures, as well as Yazee Boost 700 Wave (designed by Kanye West) worn by the character of Riri Williamse played by Dominique Thorne.

Proud and powerful, the women in majesty in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”