The Oakland-born filmmaker of both Creedand Fruitvale Station had been given the gargantuan task of shepherding Marvel’s iconic superhero to the big screen, with a budget five times bigger than he’d ever had, Hollywood’s most powerful studio behind him and the freedom to make Black Panther as personal as he wanted.
Coogler had made his name creating films about the black experience, but both were about the black American experience. Black Panther, which opens Friday, 16 February was an African story and when Coogler signed on for the movie, he’d never been.
Now, he’d finally get his chance.
“This is the most personal film I’ve ever made, which is the strangest statement to say because I only make films that are personal,” Coogler said. “This film for me started with this question of, ‘What does it mean to be African?’ It’s a question that I’ve always had since I learned I was black, since my parents sat me down and told me what that was. I didn’t totally understand what that meant. As kid you’re like, well wait, why? Like, so wait we’re from Africa? What’s that?
“I’m 31-years-old and I realised I never really took time to grapple with what it means to be African. This film gave me the chance to do that,” he said.
When the wheels touched down in Cape Town, South Africa, Coogler remembers being overcome with a visceral feeling that he still can’t put words to. He went to Table Mountain and thought, “I could be buried here.” In Nairobi he saw a Maasai man, wearing traditional clothes and speaking on a cell phone. “That’s Wakanda,” he thought. “That’s Afrofuturism.”