If it's almost been a year since Black Panther was released, why are we still talking about it? For one thing, the film is praised time and time again for how it approached diverse representation on screen, and this spans wider than the black community. Every woman featured in Black Panther is powerful and dynamic, and having a female editor in on the cutting room floor certainly had something to do with it.
I spoke with Black Panther's co-editor Debbie Berman about her work on the impactful film. During the interview, she said that throughout the process, she felt passionate about having a female's perspective in the final product amongst balancing the action, ensemble cast and emotional themes in the film. Here's an example of a scene she had an impact on:
One of the things that caught my attention was right at the end of the film, is where the Dora Milaje are surrounded by the Border Tribe. In the original construction of the film, they were saved by the Jabari Warriors but all those warriors were male. So, I said to Ryan [Coogler], having these amazing women saved by the men right at the end of the film undercuts so much of the work we've done and building them up throughout the entire feature. Is there any way to not do that? And sometimes there's an editor, like, I know the question but I don't necessarily have the answer, but this was something that was very important to me. And Ryan came up with the brilliant idea to change some of the Jabari Warriors to females. So they were no longer saved by men at the end just by Jabari men.
Looking back to Black Panther, in the final epic action sequence, because the Wakandan tribes' loyalties are divided between T'Challa and Killmonger, they go head-to-head as the two Black Panthers battle it out as well. The elite female bodyguards known as the Dora Miliaje fight against Killmonger and the Border Tribe, but find themselves cornered.
It might have sent a confusing message about these fearless women who consistently show off their strength if at the end they had to be saved by a group of Jabari men. Debbie Berman pointed it out and director Ryan Coogler took action to show women could take care of themselves just as easily as men in battle. According to Berman, one problem persisted:
The issue was we had already finished shooting the movie and it's this absolutely massive coordinated action sequence. But the great thing about working at Marvel is they're very supportive of additional photography, if it makes a film better. And so we created this whole new character, the Jabari Female Warrior and had new costumes designed for them. And we went and shot some old footage of that and the very first person to break through and save the Dora Milaje is this amazing fierce Jabari female character. It might just be a small moment in the film, but for me as a woman and what it meant to the story of the film and the story of the woman of the film was very important. And to have a director who completely supported something that I knew was a big deal to reshoot, and to ensure it was done because it was the right thing for the film, was incredible.
It was a smart move to balance the scales between the genders in Black Panther. While some filmmakers might think reshooting a small moment in a huge action sequence to bring in more badass female warriors is an unnecessary expense and use of time, attention to detail like this is likely one of the reasons Black Panther will continue to be celebrated.
Debbie Berman said she was also encouraged by director Ryan Coogler to be honest throughout the editing process, helping to create an open environment where she could voice her issues with the film while it was in post-production. It also helps that Marvel picked up the bill on these reshoots without pushback and with an understanding about how important it would be for Black Panther to get every detail right.
Black Panther is currently an Oscars conversation topic as award season seeks to celebrate the highest achievements in film in 2018. Keep checking back with CinemaBlend for coverage on the film's contention in the Oscar's race.