CREED Director Ryan Coogler On Whether BLACK PANTHER's Director Should Be Black

CREED Director Ryan Coogler On Whether BLACK PANTHER's Director Should Be Black

Warner Bros. has a woman directing Wonder Woman. Likewise, Marvel is reportedly targeting a female director for Captain Marvel. Continuing along those lines,it looks like Marvel is targeting an African-American to direct Black Panther. But should they?

At first glance, it certainly appears that Marvel is targeting a black director to helm their Black Panther movie.  First, the offer went out to Ava DuVernay, then F. Gary Gray and Ryan Coogler entered the mix.  All of these directors are African-American which would indicate that Marvel considers race an important component of their search for a director.  But what do the actual director think about the question of whether the Black Panther movie needs to have a black director.  Falcon actor Anthony Mackie has already gone on record, stating that he doesn't believe the film needs a black director.  "I don’t think it’s important at all.  As a director your job is to tell a story. You know, they didn’t get a horse to direct Seabiscuit!  The thing is I don’t think the race of the director has to do with their ability to tell a story. I think it’s all about the director’s ability to be able to relate to that story and do it justice. I think men can direct women, and two of my greatest work experiences were with female directors. So I think it all depends. May the best man — or woman — win."

Weighing in on this question is director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) who is currently out promoting Creed, starring Michael B. Jordan.  Said Coogler on whether it's important to have a black director, "Yeah, I think it’s important. Perspective is so important in art. It’s an important thing. That’s not to say that you can’t work outside yourself. When I was coming up, I made movies about things that were close to me; I made movies about things that weren’t close to me. But I definitely think that it helps when you are close to a subject. Like, I was an athlete for most of my life before I was a filmmaker. And that helped to inform me when writing this script, when directing. Having had those types of experiences helped me inform this process.  A lot of times with great movies, you find some part of the filmmaker’s life informing what they were doing. You look at Marty’s [Scorsese] great movies. It’s like, man, you look at Mean Streets, that was his life. That was what he was dealing with. That was what he was coming up with.  If someone said, “What’s Marty Scorsese’s greatest movies,” they’re going to generally be about the Italian American experience. People are going to throw out Goodfellas, they gonna throw out Mean Streets because it was something that was close to him. That’s not say that Departed isn’t a great movie. But the proximity…you could feel the director’s proximity to a movie like Goodfellas a little better because he grew up in that neighborhood. He grew up in Little Italy. That was his world.  So I think that there is a potential for a greater truth when a filmmaker comes from a particular culture that they’re dealing with. That’s not to say that a filmmaker can’t work outside his or her cultural space. But I do believe that the opportunity for the film to have more nuance will come when you looking at filmmakers that bring a little bit of that from their personal experience."

It's interesting that both McKie and Coogler cite perspective and the ability to relate to the story as important attributes for a director on a particular film.  However, Coogler says race on certain films can help a director if they're intimately familiar with the themes and tone of what the film is trying to convey.  McKie is implying that the ability to relate to a story has nothing to do with race or gender - you either relate to the story or you don't.  While both sides of the argument have their defenders and detractors, it's probably safe to say that at the end of the day, everyone just wants a good Black Panther movie.
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