We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Watching Black Panther in Harlem

10 1 0

Magic Johnson Theaters in Harlem, or AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 on Frederick Douglas Blvd to be precise, is where my children and I spend many of our weekend outings. It is the closest theatre to where we live on Columbia University campus, and closest to my heart as an urban setting that resonates deeply with a history that defines me in every major city I have lived in and loved from Tehran to Mexico City.

It's not just the theatre itself, but also the neighbourhood - near the historic Apollo Theater - that I both love and mourn at one and the same time. I love it because it is the closest destination that feels like home to me and it is the theatre frequented the most by my children's classmates from a local public school. I mourn it because the harder I look the more I see Malcolm X and James Baldwin's Harlem disappearing under the thin veneer of the gaudy Clintonite-Obamaesque gentrification of MLK Boulevard.

It makes no difference if you are there to watch Peter Rabbit (2018) or Black Panther (2018), there is a buzz about the place, before and after the show, that brings the entire history of Harlem as the epicenter of African American cultural history to bear on the mundane matter-of-fact routine of a family outing.

One must see Black Panther in Harlem, or any other inner-city epicenter of African American life in the United States, for Black Panther is an American film about black liberation - produced by Marvel and distributed by Disney - with all the perils and promises of that paradox oozing into the air when you sit down with your drink and popcorn to watch the movie.

People around the world unfamiliar with the sustained course of institutional racism in the US may justly wonder what the big deal about this film is. The conflicting thoughts and emotions the film has generated among its American audiences - particularly the African American community - is rooted in these two conflicting facts: it is a corporate production that promises to act as a cathartic moment for black liberation. It does both. It is a deeply satisfying, and it is a deeply troubling film, for both what it delivers and what it does not.

Black Panther is not just an American film - it is, in fact, replete with........

© Al Jazeera