Note from BW of Brazil: The Marvel film Black Panther has become a worldwide phenomenon, grossing over a US$1 billion just weeks after its release. And Brazil has surely been one of the countries where the film has done very well. In its first four days of release in Brazil, from February 15 to February 18, the film took nearly 1.7 million Brazilians to the theater, raking in over R$30 million (about US$9.23 million). Perhaps more important than the financial aspect of the film has been the significance of seeing a film with a mostly black cast that presents a story that goes far beyond the subservient, stereotypical roles that Brazilians are accustomed to seeing when a character is black.
The influence of this film will probably never be fully comprehended, as, in some ways, one could argue that the film is Marvel’s version of Barack Obama in terms of its significance to a global black community that is starving for positive and powerful depictions of itself on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong, in the same way that I analyze the Obama phenomenon and what it really meant vs. the aspirations of his election, I also know that Panther is just one film that doesn’t change the paradigm of white supremacy in film productions, be they American or Brazilian films. Even so, I’m sure there are probably numerous stories such as the one we present below, which once again shows us why black representation is so important.
15-year old black teen goes back to school after watching Black Panther
Courtesy of iBahia
“It was Black Panther that made me go back to school. Without the school I can’t do anything,” says Renato, at the age of 15.
Renato Siqueira de Castro, 15, wants to save lives. So he decided to be a firefighter. The path to get there is long, but the first step he’s already taken: he returned to school after almost a year away. This, however, only happened after the boy saw the heróis negros (black heroes) of the movie Black Panther, released as Pantera Negra in Brazil in mid-February.
“It was Black Panther that made me go back to school.” Without school, I can’t get anything. I stopped and thought: Gee, I better go back to school,” he says.
The boy lives in Parque das Missões, a slum squeezed between Linha Vermelha and the polluted Rio Pavuna (River) in the Duque de Caxias region of Rio. When he was 11 years old, he saw his mother’s shack catch fire and his family being rescued by firefighters. Then, his admiration for the profession was born.
“I want to save lives”
Renato left his father’s house after a fight with his sister and rented a shack for R$130 a month. To get money, he would go to the Central do Brasil train station every day to shine shoes. He heard from many clients that it was ideal to go back to school, but it was only after watching the movie that he made that decision.
“I thought about it when I saw Black Panther having to become king after his father died. He thought he couldn’t (do it). But he had to study and he succeeded,” he says.
The film Black Panther was celebrated for having the first black hero as a Marvel protagonist. Social movements organized to take young people from the periphery to the cinemas to learn the story. This is what happened to Renato, in the “Apadrinhe um sorriso” (Sponsor a Smile) project, which focuses on the development of children of the community through culture. The result is that the boy is now taking 7th grade classes at the Vila Operária public school.
“This school is better. There’s no confusion. I was making confusion in the old school too. But it’s that thing: Everybody did it and I did it. Now, everyone behaves and so do I,” he says.