Michael B. Jordan, moderator Scott Feinberg and Jamie Foxx speak onstage at the SBIFF
SBIFF Day 9: Out of Africa
‘Zulu Summer’ and ‘Black Panther’
Friday, February 8, 2019
A funny thing happened on the way through the post-screening Q&A for the Zulu Summer, an altogether sweet, quirky, and uplifting documentary that had its world premiere yesterday afternoon at the Lobero Theatre. SBIFF programmer Audrey Arn was leading an interview with directors Joseph Litzinger and Eric Michael Schrader, and community radio DJ Dark Sevier.
Suddenly, a fourth member of the project magically appeared when Mokai — one of the three lead characters in this story of South African Zulus who came to Butte Montana for a summer — showed up in Schrader’s hand, via FaceTime. He was soaking up the triumphant ambience of the film’s world premiere, all the way from home in Nongoma, South Africa. The crowd went wild and shared in Arn’s startled delight, saying, “I’ve never seen that happen.” Mokai spoke to the crowd and had them utter a couple of Zulu words, but the main takeaways were both an extension of the film’s theme of transcultural compassion and interest, and an illustration of the capacity for surprise in the festival experience.
By Courtesy Photo
Zulu Summer, edited down to a tidy 78-minutes from a reported 10 terrabytes of footage, traces the unusual tale of a Zulu prince and two friends from Nongoma who initiated a cultural exchange with the small, beautiful town of Butte (pop. 34,000), through the unlikely introduction to America through its radio station KBMF. What seems like a head-scratcher of a human-interest story appears to be one of the most inspiring and conflict-free films on the 2019 SBIFF program, in which the kindly people of Butte fully embrace these African visitors, whose own positive outlook and experience-ready senses are infectious.
Michael B. Jordan at the SBIFF
Africa, and the fictional nation of Wakanda, became part of the narrative in the non-fictional story of genuinely heroic actor Michael B. Jordan, at his Arlington tribute last night. Jordan, whose career began as a child model and actor — including a role in the soap All My Children — was flung into the orbit of “actors to watch” with his role in Ryan Coogler’s stunning Fruitvale Station, went on to successive heights in Coogler’s Creed franchise of post-Rocky films, but most legendarily as the anti-heroic powerhouse Killmonger in Black Panther (the Wakanda connection). Youth (he turns 32 tomorrow, Saturday), good looks, fierce talent, and a commitment to the cause of telling stories that matter become him, as the Arlington crowd learned.
Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx
Black Panther, the most successful film of 2018, with $1.3 billion in global box office earnings, is also clearly a high-water mark in the evolving saga of black artistry in Hollywood. That achievement, Jordan said, “was a proud feeling. We shot it in Atlanta, with a lot of black and brown faces on the set. It was like our Star Wars. We can play make-believe, but also be rooted and grounded in our culture.”
Before being given his Cinema Vanguard award by a hip and humorous Jamie Foxx, Jordan spoke about his feat of helping expand the possibilities for African-Americans in the mainstream, movie business. It was not part of a grand or calculated plan. “I like reverse engineering things,” he said, “seeing a goal and figuring out ‘how do I get around that? Can I be this Trojan Horse, to get in the door and leave a crack open?’” Yes, he could.
By Courtesy Photo