Seeing Blank Panther in South Africa
Black Panther has gotten a lot of press as being a groundbreaking film starring an African-American superhero, with the heart of the story placed in an African country which was not colonized.
During InSite’s youth leadership cultural exchange trip to South Africa, this past month, an Alumni InSite family offered to sponsor 20 students who live in #Enkanini, an informal settlement, to go and see this film. The desire for them is to see super heros that look like them, from the same continent who are smart, sharp and fiercely proud of their heritage and land. We thought it was a great plan and on the surface didn’t seem to be that difficult to put together.
Not that difficult, I thought. Boy was I wrong.
From the inception of the idea, we had 4 days to make it happen while we are executing InSite’s regular activities with our team of 25 people. Here’s what happened:
Selecting a date/time: The movie times were at 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm and then a night show. The students aren’t out of school at 2:30, and most of them need to do their chores, like wash their uniforms (by hand) watch over their younger siblings, help cook dinner. etc. They can’t go to the evening showing because getting home after dark is too dangerous as there is no light in the majority of the community.
The 5:30 showing on a Friday was the only show that would work.
Ok - settled.
Finding all the students who were invited was the next challenge. Very few, if any, have cell phones, none have internet, so it’s word of mouth and face to face contact. We recruited a couple of students to get the word out to the other 18 students as very few have cell phones. “Black Panther movie. Be at the bottom of the hill at 16:00 on Friday. Tickets are purchased for you.”
Now to order the transport. Called our transportation guy and ordered a 20 passenger van at 16:00 at the bottom of the hill on Friday.
We went to the local theater to buy the tickets and discover it’s closed - Like out of business closed. It literally closed THAT day. It was the only theater in town.
Plan B - find another theater, and hope we can make it work. Tomorrow is the day! The next closest theater is 30 minutes away and on Friday there will be massive traffic. We’ve gotta tell the students to meet at 15:30 at the bottom of the hill and not 16:00. They don’t have phones and we can’t go and tell them because it’s at night (dangerous). We send a whatsapp to the community leader they all know and ask him to tell one of the students that night so they can spread the word by the next day.
Buy tickets online. This seems simple, right? It took 90 minutes. Slow internet, could only buy 10 tickets at a time and the site required verification for my credit card. It was a US card with a US home phone number, and I’m in SA. So I had to call the bank and get a work around.
We get to Enkanini at 15:00.
The 20 passenger van was substituted for two 7-passenger vans for some reason so now we are short seats. Students are scrambling as most didn’t know about 15:30 change, some can’t go, others in the middle of washing, some don’t wanna go if others are going - it’s total chaos.
We are busy organizing an uber for the remaining students - if they can go, I am helping a student with the wash, watching younger siblings, all in an attempt for this to happen.
We struggle to get them to the vans, but by 16:00 all 20 students are on the road. They travel nearly 2 hours in traffic and barely make it in on time.
Then, a phone call at 16:45. The electricity went out in the theater, in fact, it was in the entire mall. They saw 20 minutes of the film. Back in line they go to get a refund. They get back in the vans and come home. Without seeing the freakin movie.
That’s life in Africa, well in South Africa. Nothing is guaranteed, or certain. The students roll with the punches. Maybe they will see it. We gave the money to the community leader and spoke about organizing another day, we’d order the transportation and we’ll try again.
What struck me about this experience is the accessibility to experiences. Arranging a movie for students where I live would not be this difficult. We have public transportation, students have electricity at home and all have smartphones and it’s safe to be out at night. For some the price of movie tickets is too much, so they’d just wait until they could can see it online. Regardless, it’s not a huge deal.
As the Black Panther is advertised as a movie to inspire children of color, I wonder how many children of color will have the accessibility to actually see it. It’s not as easy and accessible to everyone as it seems.
As I sadly relaid the news to our friends who sponsored the movie, they informed me that another friend wants to sponsor 20 more to see the movie. 40 students now. - organizing 40 students? Really?!!