Director Ryan Coogler's first two feature films, Fruitvale Station and Creed, focused on black protagonists and the importance they each held in their respective communities. However, Coogler took a deep dive into African culture for Marvel Studios' Black Panther and insists that it is his most important movie to date, as it allowed him to really explore his cultural identity in depth.
"This film is possibly the most personal film I've made to date," Coogler told the Sydney Morning Herald. "To me it deals with the answer to a question that I've been asking myself since I was very young -- what does it mean to be African? That idea, that concept, I was very interested in and drawn towards. I was able to explore that in making this film. It enabled me to fulfill a longlife dream of going to the continent of Africa -- researching -- for the first time. The things that I learned about the continent and the things that I learned about myself were invaluable. I tried to put some of that energy into the project."
And while the movie takes place in the secluded African nation of Wakanda and centers on King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Coogler described the character as "universal" to all audiences, regardless of color. Working with Boseman made things a million times easier, as the actor is fascinated with African culture and is most adept at recreating certain dialects from the continent. In addition, the director commented on what it was like to transition to a major Hollywood tentpole project.
"I got to learn how to play on a bigger canvas," Coogler said. "It was a lot of hard work, and it was challenging a lot of the time. But the rewards that came with it were really great in terms of learning how to tell a story with more of the effects work, with a studio like Marvel, which is quite unique in their style. I really enjoyed it, and I hope that folks enjoy the film."
Black Panther lands on its feet in theaters on February 16. Watch the latest trailer HERE.