Tag: Cinema

The African diaspora didn’t realise how much we needed #Wakanda until now

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”

Yes…let it sink in again.

I was in Ghana when Black Panther was released but my brother (a massive Marvel fan who had so many of the comics) booked tickets for when I returned to the UK. I hadn’t been to Ghana in 5 years! I know, shame on me, why wait so long for 30 degrees heat, fresh coconuts, pineapples and REAL fufu (pounded cassava and plantain – not the powdered substitute we have in the UK)?! I never think of London when in Accra, but this time I was a bit distracted while in the Motherland, not completely, just a little. Black Panther was coming out.

BTW I am not a Marvel fan and don’t know much about the ‘Marvel universe’, apart from a bit of X-men. I saw Captain America: Civil War by chance and that was my introduction to T’Challa aka Black Panther. I was eager to see how an unconquered African nation would be visualised. It’s a thought I’ve had many times before; but now it was dancing at the front of my mind in the advent of the Black Panther premiere. The thirst to see African people living, thriving and loving their heritage because they don’t know how NOT to love themselves, was evident globally.

With the multitude of natural resources and food in Africa, but seeing how the continent stands currently, I’ve asked myself many times….

What if there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade?

What if Africa was never colonised?

I’m not saying the state of Africa is solely down to slavery and colonisation. There are internal problems and we know there was a small section of Africans complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which of course is painful to digest (whether they were aware of the real fate of their fellow Africans or not). However, this does doesn’t negate the extensive role of Europeans in slavery. These two periods of history have probably had a heinous irreversible impact on Africa. That’s what I believed for a long time…and then came Black Panther.

I know Wakanda is not real and some say, ‘it’s just a film’. But it’s not ‘just a film’. Many themes trickle throughout Black Panther, but the ‘African elephant’ in the room was the potentially heated discourse between Africans and the diaspora (African-Americans, African Latinos, African-Caribbean people etc.). This African elephant’ in the room has been discussed before in pockets of the community. I’ve had conversations with people about it, but seeing it manifested globally on the big screen forces us to acknowledge that this specific discourse needs to be extended.

For the children of African immigrants growing up in the UK / US / elsewhere, it wasn’t always ‘cool’ to be African until, maybe the last 8-10 years with the rise of Afrobeats. Some of the ‘African jokes’ immigrants / their children were subjected to were from African-Americans and African-Caribbean people. So there has been a long-standing tension and disconnect between us birthed from the psychological effects of slavery and colonisation.

I have never been to see a film twice and I probably never would have admitted it lol! When I did admit it on social media, I was so surprised that a lot of people also PAID MONEY AGAIN to see the film. The excitement of the possibility of what this film can incite among Africans and the diaspora is still palpable…

 Seeing the possibilities of an African nation that hasn’t been physically, financially and mentally brutalised but allowed to maintain and advance its heritage with technical innovation, left me speechless with a big gap-toothed smile on my face! It was too empowering. I felt proud, that this image was being shown to the world and most importantly to those who need to see it most – us!


Black panther, Marvel, Wakanda
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 No film is ‘perfect’ and I’ve already and Instagram exchanges with strangers who say the Wakanda ideology is the same as Donald Trump’s right-wing stance and even liking Wakanda to North Korea. Of course I want all nations to have democratically elected governments, but for me Black Panther was about making us proud of our heritage, seeing how valued women are in African society in all their different talents and believing what is possible.

The fact that Wakanda has taken over social media, re-named emojis (see my Insta story above) in its honour and made $700M worldwide and counting, speaks volumes.

It’s not possible to erase the impact of slavery but I hope the discourse between Africa and her diaspora finally mobilises us to create an Africa that is sustainably great. When I say I want ‘a Wakanda’, I’m not talking about flying spaceships or a single party right-wing government, but an Africa (yes, I mean across the continent and not just in one country) with good healthcare, a diversified transport system, advanced technology, where every child has the opportunity to go to school. I’m talking about the promises of a ‘better life’ that pushed parents out and lured them to the West in the first place. Is that too much of a fantasy?

For this to come to fruition Africa and her diaspora must decide to work together. I think we can…but we can’t ‘watch this space’, we must create and be active within ‘this space’. Wakanda (albeit fictional) is an embodiment of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved the fact the main cast represents the continent and the diaspora (Lupita – Kenya, Danai – Zimbabwe, Leticia Wright – UK/Guyana, Winston Duke – Trinidad & Tobago, Daniel Kaluuya UK/Uganda, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan – USA).

Within the much lived up to hype, we can’t forget about the director Ryan Coogler, his interview about connecting with Africa was the most moving one I’ve heard so far out of all the snippets I’ve watched. Growing up in the diaspora with admittedly a colonised mentality at times, makes me feel like I’ve missed out on some of the richness of African heritage. But like many, Black Panther made me feel proud and tempted my faith in something that I didn’t think was possible in its entirety. #WakandaForEver.

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Cover photo credit: Marvel’s Black Panther film


#Lupita Nyong’o – #Cannes Film Festival 2015

There’s a brown girl in the ring tra la la la la…. You may not be familiar with this opening line to the Jamaican nursery rhyme, but you would definitely have heard of Lupita Nyong’o! Various phrases have been associated with the African actress, such as, “Pride of Africa”, “the most beautiful woman in the world” “Lupita Nyong’o dress”; the latter more so than anything else at the moment. Her acting skills brought Lupita centre stage, but designer outfits such as the grasshopper green Gucci dress debuted at the 2015 Cannes film festival, which ended yesterday, also keep Lupita in the spotlight.

Lupita #grasshoppergreen Gucci dress
Yes she can! Lupita Nyong’o at Cannes Film Festival 2015
Picture: Instagram @lupitanyongo
Cannes Film Festival grasshopper season, Ugandan inspired
Lupita Nyong’o grasshopper green #Gucci dress – Ugandan inspiration. Picture: Intagram @Lupitanyongo

It’s said that Hollywood is where dreams come true but Lupita’s meteoric rise to fame after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in her first mainstream film, must have been written in destiny. Most actors have ‘a look’ about them; Lupita’s most conspicuous attribute is her skin, more accurately, it’s colour. Of course there are a few black actresses around but even in ‘black Hollywood’ we rarely see dark-skinned female actresses given a chance to display their skills let alone applauded for them. colourism in the black communityUnfortunately when a black actress steps onto the scene, it’s not just about the acting… skin complexion is usually part of the equation. Colourism, the fungus which keeps on spreading is still an issue in the African diaspora whether they are in Europe, the Americas or the Caribbean. However, it does exist in many parts of the world, including Asia, so isn’t just a ‘black problem’. It’s disheartening that the shade of skin has such a heavy influence on who is given opportunities and who isn’t, but this is the current scene of the world today. A dark-skinned African woman with short afro given a chance to shine and be celebrated in Hollywood (arguably the world’s stage for film and entertainment), is a bit of a misfit on the common narrative in this context. In April 2014 People Magazine, named Lupita the most “beautiful woman in the world”. With all the talk of her looks and red carpet dresses, it’s easy to forget that first and foremost Lupita is an actress and I’m glad to see that she is staying true to her love, after all beauty is only skin deep. I first saw Lupita in the African TV series Shuga, but was intrigued by her story like most people, once she garnered attention on the main stage. #Lupita Nyong'o #career highlights Lupita’s physical reflection is the opposite to what has been considered ‘acceptable’ by many (including black) cultures, especially in the entertainment business where looks are everything! She doesn’t have Nicki Minaj boobs and booty, which some believe is the epitome of the black female physique (real or surgically enhanced) celebrated in black culture, but she does have tightly coiled afro kinky hair and smooth onyx skin. We’re so used to NOT seeing female actress like her, that it was a shock when she appeared on international screens and the same can be said for Viola Davis.

skin bleaching, confidence, inspiration, Fans, dark skin
Looking in the mirror – Lupita Fanmail

No one is perfect but within that Lupita oozes confidence, humility and joy. There was a time when she didn’t like her own complexion and asked God to change it. However, her talent on the big screen is a breath of fresh air, inspiring other women from all walks of life as she is the latest person to put the spotlight on the general perception of beauty, which just like talent comes in many guises.

In my eyes, Lupita Nyong’o is An African ‘Affecter’.

Affect (verb): Have an effect on; make a difference to.


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Common and #JohnLegend have their own glory story

Eighty-seven years of filming excellence…The Oscars. In recent times the ‘race issue’ has coloured the Academy Awards ceremony causing fierce debate. Arguably the most prestigious film award ceremony in the world, it’s no wonder such as big stage highlights how homogenous the mainstream film industry is.

Race on its own is a complex issue and when it infiltrates other facets of life; its texture remains the same. In 2014, 12 Years A Slave was a big hit in the world of cinema; winning Oscars among other awards and introduced the masses to an unknown Kenyan woman – Lupita Nyong’o. But as some criticised, it was ‘another slave film’. This year a film depicting (once again) the oppression of black people, Selma ignited the latest race debate, generating hash tags on twitter such as, #OscarsSoWhite. Selma was nominated for Best Picture which it didn’t win last night, but the fact that leading actor British-Nigerian David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay were not considered in their respective categories caused upset.

Man in red: David Oyelowo played Martin Luther King in Selma (Google Images)
Man in red on the red carpet – David Oyelowo played Martin Luther King in Selma. (Google Images)

Unfortunately oppression is a significant piece of the history and present of black people, and these stories need to be re-told, not just for black people but the rest of the world. Aside from the apparent snub of Selma by the Academy, the main issue isn’t just Selma but the lack of representation of black and other ethnic minorities in mainstream cinema.

Give credit where credit is due.

Not every black actor out here is good (as with actors of other races), but even after 87 years of golden statues, the shade of the tans have changed but Hollywood still remain predominately white. Part of this is due to where you start the race, as we know not all people are created equal. When the Academy Awards first started, black people in America were not even allowed to vote! Considering this, there has been progress and it seems easier for black actors to ‘make it’ in America than in other countries, such as Britain.

Most people actually thought Idris Elba was African-American when he stared (as a drug dealer) in the hit series, The Wire. Idris along with David Oyelowo, Chiwetel Ejiofor (and many other black British actors)  were hardly mentioned in British media or given the opportunities (it seems) to showcase their talents on such a big stage until they went across the pond, so I guess it’s not all bad.

Idris Elba at The Oscars 2015 with his daughter Isan  (mirror.co.uk)
Idris Elba at The Oscars 2015 with his daughter Isan. (mirror.co.uk)

Film is supposed to be a means of escape, fantasy, truth, etc…. and we ALL want to see someone we can relate to on screen, if humans are the main subject of interest. We just need a fair representation of black  and ethnic minority actors, whatever their nationality in the mainstream film industry, and they are out there! I’m not saying that every fictional film should have a majority black cast but a least include us, so that films are a true representation of the current racial mix.

Put ME in the story – Viola Davis Best Actress acceptance speech at the SAG awards 2015

I was surprised at the backlash British actor John Boyega received after announcement that he was being cast as a lead character, in the new Star Wars film – The Force Awakens (especially as Samuel L. Jackson was part of the franchise). Some fans didn’t think Boyega was appropriate for the role, with comments on You Tube including:

 “Dear Black People, We are forced to include you into everything awesome we do.”

Another comment suggesting the film “didn’t need some black Jedi”.

To which the actor responded “To Whom It May Concern, get used it.”

John Boyega - May the force be with you (Google images)
John Boyega – May the force be with you. (Google images)

British comedian Lenny Henry has been vocal about the lack of ethnic minorities in British television and last year along with others including Idris Elba, asked TV executives to improve their representation of ethnic minorities on British TV. Stating his concern of the “paucity” of black talent in British “high-end drama and comedy”, Henry compared British TV to the US, which has highly successful shows such as Scandal (the best show on TV at the moment – I love me some Papa Pope!), Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. The issue isn’t just with the paucity of ethnic minorities on the screen but also production staff behind the scenes; spotting a brown face is still like looking for a chocolate chip in a bag of flour.

Of course some people aren’t sympathetic to the plight of ethnic minority representation in mainstream television and don’t think it’s a big deal. In response to Lenny Henry’s calls for equality a counsellor from the so-called political party UKIP stated:

“I think if black people come to this country and don’t like mixing with white people why are they here? If he (Henry) wants a lot of blacks around go and live in a black country.”

There are many who would agree with this; but Henry doesn’t want black only institutions, only a level playing field. Mixed-race people are becoming the fast growing ethnic minority group in the UK, so I don’t think black people have a problem with ‘mixing with white people’ either.

Selma didn’t go home completely empty handed on Oscar night, Common and John Legend won the Oscar for Best Original Song, apparently making it the 32nd time out of over 2,900 winners in the past 87 years that a black person has won a competitive Oscar. Their performance brought some in the audience to tears and earned a standing ovation.

Glory – “The struggle for justice is right now.”

So what happens now?

That’s up to the Academy Award board of which, apparently 94% are white and 3% black, including the president elected in 2013, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American to hold the position.

It remains to be seen how quickly change will come, maybe it’s up to ethnic minorities to create their own mainstream, which won’t be easy as it never is when you enter the race late. There are movements in this area, Tyler Perry has built a profitable empire giving black talent opportunities to shine, there was the romantic comedy ‘Think Like a Man’ that did well in the US and Europe and I can’t wait for Lupita Nyong’o to star in AND produce Americanah, an adaptation of the award winning novel by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

So watch this (white) space…or just accept that Hollywood; a district, in one city, in one country has all the power in film and really is just as white as it looks.


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#BAFTAs made history!

I can’t remember if I watched the BAFTAs last year, but I certainly did last night! It was a good show all round really; even with American heavy weights such as Leonardo Dicaprio and Oprah Winfrey present, it was a night for Brits.


The show got started with some British music from Tinie Tempah and Laura Mvula.


Photo: Getty images
Photo: Getty images


Steve McQueen became the first black film maker to win a BAFTA for Best Film (12 Years A Slave), in the charity awards 67 year history! Mr Chiwetel Ejiofor was the best Leading Actor on the night for the same film.


Photo: Bafta images via flickr
The film maker
Photo: Bafta images via flickr


The leading man Photo: Bafta images via flickr
The leading man
Photo: Bafta images via flickr




One of the nicest surprises of the night was Barkhad Abdi winning best Supporting Actor. Usually behind the camera directing music videos, Somalian-born Abdi attend an open call audition to win the role, starring alongside acting legend Tom Hanks in Captain Philips. I was also happy for Will Poulter who piped Lupita Nyong’o to the Rising Star Award. I liked him in the Chronicles of Narnia and Wild Bill, which you must see if you haven’t already!


Photo: Getty images
Photo: Getty images


Photo: Bafta images via flickr
Don’t mess with those eyebrows!
Photo: Bafta images via flickr



Overall, Gravity was the big winner of the night picking up 6 awards from 11 nominations at a well-attended show, even Mr. and Mrs. Smith came out to play…Bring on the Oscars!


Photo: Getty images
Photo: Getty images
Also flying the British flag... Naomie Harris Photo: Getty Images
Also flying the British flag… Naomie Harris
Photo: Getty Images



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