Why ‘Black Panther’ was the perfect first choice to revive Saudi cinema

T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman in the Marvel box-office hit. (Marvel)
Updated 20 April 2019

Why ‘Black Panther’ was the perfect first choice to revive Saudi cinema

  • Marvel’s superhero film went on to set other milestones, at the box office and during awards season

DUBAI: “Black Panther,” with its ensemble of African-American actors and its unapologetic social commentary on racial politics, was a welcome signal of change in Hollywood.

Released in January last year, the Marvel movie was a breath of fresh air in an industry lacking in diversity. But it was more than that for Saudi Arabia.

After remaining dark for 35 years, commercial cinemas reopened in the Kingdom on April 18, 2018, with an invite-only screening of “Black Panther” at a cinema in Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District.

Hundreds of VIP guests, including government officials and celebrities — men and women mixed — flocked to the venue to be part of the historic moment, one that was part of a series of major policy changes led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

It made sense for “Black Panther” to signify this cultural renaissance, as the film itself was lauded for its own social relevance.

In the movie, African Prince-turned-King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to rule in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, a technologically advanced country that is isolated from the rest of the world.

Doubling as the crime-fighting hero Black Panther, King T’Challa also has to defend his country from the evil intentions of his cousin Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), who wants to dethrone him.

Critics have praised the film’s bold navigation of a racially charged narrative arc, where the major driving force of the main antagonist was to launch a global uprising against the oppression of African people. 

Aside from the film’s highlight on the plight of people of color, there is also the fact that it treated its female characters the same way it did their male counterparts, giving their warrior roles much-needed depth.

These roles were given life by Lupita Nyong’o (Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave”) and Danai Gurira (“The Walking Dead”).

Director Ryan Coogler successfully managed to inject all these provocative ideas in “Black Panther” while preserving its entertainment value as a superhero movie. 

All the commendations were not just talk — “Black Panther” became an awards-season darling, also making history as one of the most critically acclaimed movies in its genre.

It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar at the 91st Academy Awards this year, the first superhero film to get such a nod.

One of the most nominated films that night, it took home three Oscar trophies out of seven: Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, all of which represented historical feats.

It became the first Marvel film ever to win an Oscar. Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler, who won for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design respectively, became the first African-American winners in their categories.

“Black Panther” raked in more than $1.3 billion at the global box office, making it the third-highest-grossing film of all time. 

Its critical, commercial and cultural milestones made it the perfect film to revive the Saudi cinema scene.


Bollywood megastar Bachchan hospitalized with COVID-19

Updated 11 July 2020

Bollywood megastar Bachchan hospitalized with COVID-19

  • Affectionately known as "Big B", Bachchan shot to stardom in the early 1970s on the back of roles in huge hit movies such as "Zanjeer" and "Sholay"
  • Millions of Indians revere Bachchan like royalty, hanging on his every word and seeking his blessings

MUMBAI: Bollywood veteran megastar Amitabh Bachchan, 77, has tested positive for COVID-19 and been admitted to hospital in his hometown of Mumbai, he said Saturday on Twitter, calling for those close to him to get tested.
"I have tested CoviD positive .. shifted to Hospital," Bachchan wrote, saying his family and staff had already been tested and were awaiting their results.
"All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested!" he added.

His son Abhishek Bachchan, 44, said in a tweet minutes later that he had also tested positive.

The Bollywood actors were admitted to Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment hub, and several other members of the high-profile family were tested for the virus.

Affectionately known as "Big B", Bachchan shot to stardom in the early 1970s on the back of roles in huge hit movies such as "Zanjeer" and "Sholay".
His films still open to packed cinemas across India, but his new movie - comedy-drama "Gulabo Sitabo" - was released on Amazon's streaming service due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Bollywood recently resumed film shoots after a months-long hiatus following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown in India in late March.
But actors over the age of 65, such as Bachchan, are banned from set due to their vulnerability to the virus.
India's nationwide coronavirus toll rose Saturday to 820,916 cases - the third highest in the world - with 22,123 deaths.
Health workers have complained about severe staff shortages, with some senior doctors and nurses avoiding frontlines because of their risk of catching the virus.
As the death toll climbs, critics say the country is not testing enough - leaving many infections undiagnosed.
Millions of Indians revere Bachchan like royalty, hanging on his every word, seeking his blessings and congregating outside his Mumbai bungalow every year on October 11, his birthday.
The doyen of Bollywood is a keen user of Twitter, where he has 43 million followers, and his career has branched into television presenting, business and politics, as well as countless commercial endorsements.
Early in his acting life, Bachchan earned his reputation as India's "angry young man" for portraying violent heroes fighting an unjust system and injecting a new aggressive element into Bollywood movies, which had previously consisted of polite romances.
After some lean years, Bachchan bounced back spectacularly, largely due to his stint as host for the Indian version of the popular TV game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", which revived his artistic and financial fortunes.
According to local media, he was being treated at Mumbai's Nanavati hospital.