Melissa Marquez is the recipient of our “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” submission contest. She was chosen for her unique and passionate perspective. We are also featuring runner up recipient Viridiana López’s thoughts on the film, see below!
The film “Wakanda Forever” was such an emotional rollercoaster for this Latina filmmaker. My younger self would have wanted to see these wonderful women powerhouse performances that were coming out of the big screen. Not to mention, it was a real joy to watch as a POC and also as a superhero fan. Angela Bassett’s character Queen Ramonda of Wakanda is a diva that knocks us out right away with her performance. A mother, a leader, and a friend, she shows that vulnerability can be truly powerful. Losing a child, the O.G. Black Panther portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman, is a pain that she shows with great courage and honor.
It was a pleasant surprise to see in the funeral scenes that the characters in this film not only honor our fallen hero, they also honor their roots which are displayed by the music, dancing, and costuming. This is one of the hallmarks of this film is the incorporation of culture and how that comes into play with the production design and storyline. I loved seeing the meshing of African and Mexican cultures into the fictional countries of Wakanda and Atlantis. You really feel like they could be a part of our world today. I also appreciated the fact that the folks there are not your typical cookie cutter heroes or villains. There is a three dimensional complexity to the mothers, daughters, sons, etc, all who were left in some kind of grief while at the same time having to fight a broken system.
Characters like Namor, who is our supposed villain is someone we see as a leader who has great love for his people and is doing all that he can to protect them from any kind of danger. He had experienced the grief of losing his mother and uses that to propel him in fighting those that would try to endanger his people. The only option he sees is to fight back in order for his people to remain alive and well in Atlantis. Shuri, princess of Wakanda, walks in the grief of losing her brother T’Challa and does it all on her own. But as the film progresses she begins to realize that there is a need to step up to the plate in order to also be a protector to her people, even if that means stumbling for a little bit and making some mistakes. We see her go into a journey of self-discovery as she dives in to find answers as to what to do as a leader and daughter of the queen. She realizes that maybe withholding from duty and others is probably not the best road to travel. We learn from her that sometimes we need to take a chance at opening our hearts to others again. As she invites others in and and not push them aside is when she begins to experience compassion and the understanding that together we are more powerful than alone. She sees that it is better that they all become as one against a common foe. I also love that her character has these nuggets of great nerdy moments and has quite the extensive knowledge in the sciences along with a new character who we meet, Iron Heart a.k.a. Riri Williams. The two characters share a great deal of screen time and have great chemistry that makes it an enjoyable watch as they work together to come up with technology that helps Wakanda protect their people.
These are the characters I would have loved to have seen as a young girl from Peru, who are powerful, intelligent and brave and are brown, beautiful women who find their self-worth and their value that they add to Wakanda. In this film we see the other side of government, which is shown as being corrupt. We see, for example, that other countries and special agents are going after vibranium and want to utilize it for their own selfish means such as using it purely for war and the business behind it. In their attempts we see that they do not care if countries like Wakanda or Atlantis fall in order to get such a desirable resource. It is truly interesting to see the journey that the characters go through, especially that in which both the leaders of Wakanda and Atlantis experience in order to switch to survival mode in a world where unfortunately, being different is misunderstood and taken as a threat.
There is a beautiful complexity that is portrayed in this film with being a leader and grieving a family member. The film did a wonderful job in showcasing that and had a powerful message of standing with others in the moments where they need us the most and that compassion with others and with ourselves is a strong quality to have. This was a very rich viewing for me and made my inner child feel like she had something to look for in terms representation for herself and her future daughter. Seeing characters with such power and vulnerability while at the same time being a person of color makes my heart soar and consider this film the best Marvel has produced in a long time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa Marquez is a writer, director, and producer from Lima in Peru. Melissa moved to the US when she was age 5. She discovered her love of filmmaking using the family’s first film camera. Film helped Melissa adapt to the changes of being in a new country. After graduating with a B.A. in Media Arts, Melissa Marquez wrote and directed the award-winning short “Dream”, starring “So You Think You Can Dance?” and “High School Musical: The Series” talent Stephani Sosa. By August 2019, Melissa had written and directed “Ballroom Dreams”; a film inspired by her personal experiences. “Ballroom Dreams” is the story of a Latina college student who pursues Latin ballroom despite her protective mother’s wishes and status in this country. Melissa Marquez likes to create stories from moments in her life and interactions that made lasting impressions on her. Something she hopes to share with the world. We all seek something or the truth beyond the same story. Melissa is about centering on a protagonist who is different from the pack but relatable when it comes to the human experience.
Mabel opened the door for everybody (every He, She and They)
Runner-up essay by Viridiana López
The most present word in my 2022
Forgiveness, to forgive.
Rebirth, what came after dying so many times.
Witnessing Wakanda Forever triggered many things inside of me.
I’m a Mexican woman, with brown skin, dark eyes, starry hair like the night, a tender and compassionate heart and a neverending need to create. Throughout my life I’ve never witnessed an event like the one gestated in Wakanda. And I use the word “gestate”, because it gave the chance for birth; the birth of finally being able to see ourselves in characters that look like me and like most Mexicans, and not just that, but being portrayed as heroes. It creates the opportunity to take space, to build a whole universe highlighting the greatness, dignity and richness of our ancestors, “the richness of acceptance of diversity,” as Eufrosina Cruz says, “is the greatest human treasure.”
There are many things I want to talk about and I will, but essentially what I need to talk about most is grief.
Wakanda goes through an absolutely painful loss: Chadwick, that luminous path that lies in absolutely free flight. He is the heart of the film and there could be no better fiction for my country, Mexico, a corn-hearted shelter, to embrace its wounds than Wakanda.
Wakanda is a tribute to the courage to exist, the courage of being oneself. It is to remember and celebrate where we come from, but also where and how we want to go. In addition, grief also touches me so deeply today.
This year I lost a lot, my cousin Karla Karina Pineda Ortiz because she raised her voice loudly, she is a victim of the terrible violence against women in my country, we also lost her mother, my aunt, whose heart could not exist without Karina’s by her side and then she also flew. Paradise came for her and equally transcended after her heart stopped.
Losing Oscar, a magnificent artist, activist and dreamer, who transcended a few weeks ago. Oscar, you live also in every thing I create, my friend, your quest for equal love in the world lives on and with more light and dreams than ever. Losing Miroslava, who was so young and so great at the same time meant so much. She was the best teacher, she helped me become who I am. Miroslava was a friend who was like a free eagle and deeply spiritual.
Losing more than 30 percent of the hearing in my right ear, letting go of a version of myself that I thought I knew, letting go, losing myself, dying, looking, inhabiting anger, abandonment, rejection, closing cycles, letting go of loves that are no longer part of my story, that I no longer want, growing up, taking charge of myself and, in short, letting myself die. To give birth to the outside and the inside in order to gestate myself again. And with all this, to dimension the strength that inhabits me (one that I had no idea existed in me). There is something very special that happened to me when I recognized myself so much in Princess Shuri. Out of the whole movie, out of everything immense, Shuri became an immense reflection of myself.
The wound I was going through, the rage that comes behind the injustice that rips lives away from us, her pain, but also choosing compassion as a path, to be compass. Shuri says in one part: how to go on with such a broken heart, you have no idea how I felt the same this year after so much pain. So far I conclude: from love. Because love is the only thing that is greater than death.
Shuri: she, them, that representation of those of us who inhabit the middle in the world, between the soft and the strong, the vulnerable and the stubborn, to be the wind and also the fire.
Shuri, sharing her pain, was also speaking for mine and in the end, she reminded me that the greatest thing I am is my capacity to love, the forgiveness I sow day by day and the search for horizontality. She gave a dignified voice to those who have always told us that “we should choose”, but we cannot, because the whole world resonates with us, because we find beauty in the ability to flow without so many binarisms.
How deep and beautiful it is to witness the work of persons such as Josué Maychi, an actor whom I had the chance to share the fiction, same fiction where we were able to taste the purépecha thongue through a pair of sentences, it being an idiom that weaves me directly unto my Michoacan roots.
How much the truth and passion in Josué Maychi’s surrender of himself when translating to Mayan. Mabel Cadena (Namora), Tenoch Huerta (Namor) and Alex Livinalli (Atuma) share their beings with us, their lineages burning in their hand’s palm touching their hearts. To think in Mabel Cadena, feet-to-head actress, flawless technique and volcano’s heart. To admire her work, filled with strenght and conviction. I think a lot about how the work she’s doing is not only for her, but also for me, for my generation.
Mabel did not only open the door for herself. Mabel opened the door for everybody (every He, She and They). She’s making my path easier, through all the seeded dignity. Yes, an absolutely historic happening, healing and poetic for each an every child that, in silence, wanted to be a superhero, our skin filling the spot for admiration, day-dreaming and wisdom. That came along with a certainty about the integral importance of our lives. We finally found ourselves at the immensity of Marvel’s aquatic universes that represent our grandfathers through a lens of so much love and profound respect.
Today, I dedicate my thoughts to this, thinking through the pain, the molest, the hapinness, the love. And I choose to place my anger in art’s sensibility for me to avoid opening myself nor my wounds evermore. To shut the cicle of violence, to put an end to it. Because compassion is a way not everbody chooses to take, it involves to live with vulnerability and also to walk with strenght in order to be responsable, not only with our own existence, but with the universe’s. It involves to never make yourself smaller, it involves to search for the true loving justice of horizontalizing the world.
I wish and choose to be more and more consistent regarding my imperfect, humane existence. I make that choice as Shuri, step by step, in compliance. I do this without the exigency of making no mistake, but also without forgetting to question myself. I come to the end of this text with that, a hug of compassion to myself. I deserve it. On the latests years I began to search more lively for Independence and to approach at how the world works and, since COVID and so many loses, art is, for me, still the greatest shape for a safe shelter to take. It hugs me and it fills me with kisses.
Likewise, I want art to be hugging. The importance of narratives that heal the social body is essential. And, as an artist, but most of all, as a person, I’m really compelled to it. That’s where everything is, In creating: on building together. That’s that. Thank you for so much, Wakanda.