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Laura Blum

Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for She also publishes on Thalo



Production Designer Hannah Beachler Relives “Black Panther”

Been to Wakanda? Hannah Beachler has, and her production design for the fictional country at the heart of Black Panther proves that vibranium exists. How else to explain such a radiant spectacle if not daily doses of the African El Dorado’s magic metal?

The Marvel Studios actioner follows T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) finding his way as Wakanda’s new warrior king and superhero Black Panther after the death of his father T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani). Presiding over unique reserves of vibranium – which have secretly fueled the Wakandan technological miracle -- T’Challa plans to continue his nation’s isolationist traditions. These haven’t always pleased everyone. In 1992, from his base in Oakland, California, T’Chaka’s war dog brother N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) smuggled out some of the energy-packing ore to help oppressed people (especially of color) ravaged by war, famine, poverty and other scourges. T’Chaka branded him a traitor and killed him. Now, a generation later, the sin of the father is visited on his children: N’Jobu’s son, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), is bent on avenging his father’s murder and seizing T’Challa’s throne.

Rarely, if ever, has a blockbuster so seized the zeitgeist. Ryan Coogler’s film not only aces its brief as a superhero game-changer, it’s arguably a cultural watershed. Mass audiences can now swap their patronizing Hollywood images of “the dark continent” for a visceral experience that celebrates Africa’s vibrancy—and a utopian imagining of what might have been without colonization and the slave trade.

Asked what first came to mind when reading the script, Beacher tells me that she was most impressed by the intimate father-son story at its core. That may come as a surprise considering the production’s vast scale. Read on:

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