In this week's "Cinema Chat," WEMU's Patrick Campion sits down with Michigan Theater Foundation digital media specialist Nick Alderink to talk about the latest movie news and all of the new films coming to the silver screen this weekend. Plus, WEMU's own Michael Jewett drops in to share his excitement about a certain Marvel Studios blockbuster!
From the outside, the success of the #BlackPantherChallenge — which is raising money for kids around the country to see “Black Panther” in theaters — has seemed like one of those grassroots efforts that caught fire on social media and became a viral national sensation. Before it became an official GoFundMe with over 400 local campaigns that raised over $400,000, New York marketing consultant Frederick Joseph launched the Challenge as a local effort for Harlem’s Boys and Girls Club. However, the campaign’s trajectory was anything but accidental.
“I always envisioned it going national, but strategically I needed a base for it just to be the spark,” said Joseph in an interview with IndieWire. "With Harlem being such a historically black community and this film being such a historic film in terms of black representation, and feminist representation as well, I just wanted to start it there because I knew people would be most receptive. Plus, my connections are in New York.”
By the time Chelsea Clinton got behind the effort and The Root wrote a story about Joseph’s campaign, the Harlem campaign was already nearing its initial $7,500 goal — largely through donations from Joseph’s personal network — and Joseph had what he needed to pitch GoFundMe on a national effort which, he argued, had ice bucket-like potential. Joseph would rely on the GoFundMe infrastructure to set up one umbrella campaign in which educators and youth organizations could easily set up their own local #BlackPantherChallenges and attach it to Joseph’s national effort. Just a few weeks later, it would become the biggest entertainment-related GoFundMe ever.
Joseph, who consults large corporate clients on how to market their philanthropic work, admits he bristles when he’s told how “lucky” he’s been with the campaign, having stayed up countless nights for weeks — he still has a day job — crafting tweets and pinging influencers to methodically build awareness. In many ways, Joseph’s motivations to set up the Black Panther Challenge are similar to why many people say the film is essential: representation.
“Seeing yourself in this way is life changing,” said Joseph. “We need to come together to support children and experiences and initiatives like this. We come together when there are times of natural disaster, but it’s also important that we come together and support life.”
It’s a message that resonated for the campaign as well as the future blockbuster itself. In the case of the #BlackPantherChallenge, the effort grew organically as individual campaigns garnered their own attention. In the case of the kids of Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, it was a viral video of students dancing when they found out they were going to see “Black Panther.”
Other campaigns have captivating backstories. In Michigan, this year’s Little Miss Flint, eight-year old Mari Copeny, started a #BlackPantherChallenge — but in addition to donations to buy movie tickets, the campaign calls on donors to write notes to the kids of Flint to let them know they haven’t been forgotten as the city continues to suffer from insufficient water treatment.
Moving the needle more than anything have been celebrities, key influencers, and local politicians spreading the word via social media. Rapper Snoop Dogg, ESPN’s Jemele Hill, activist/organizer DeRay Mckesson, and athlete-turned commentator Shannon Sharpe are among those willing to use their sizable social media followings to spread the word. “The space in which people have really been pushing this has been the black activist and black local digital influencers, which has been really big,” said Joseph. “I haven’t seen much from the entertainment industry — certainly haven’t seen anything from anyone associated with Marvel or Disney films.”
While Joseph admits he’s a little disappointed that the studio didn’t reach out, he believes it only goes to prove that more diverse representation onscreen can’t be something left in the hands of the large studios. The success of the #BlackPantherChallenge shows there is potential for well-designed grassroots efforts to tap communities that can amplify underrepresented voices beyond superhero movies.
“It’s actually pretty telling, and this reaffirms for me and my colleagues that the system needs to be disrupted,” said Joseph. “All these major players that are controlling what the content is — there’s such an excitement around ‘Black Panther’ because there’s nothing like it before, but there are people who have written stories about things like this before, or akin to this, for comedians of color, for women, for the LGBTQ community that we want to give a voice, and help amplify voices [the Hollywood is not].”
To that end, Joseph has begun laying the groundwork for his next project: a nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and creative direction agency that will provide artists focused on representation and inclusion with $40,000-$50,000 of professional services completely free. The main criteria for the grant? Projects that the organization believes have the potential to “move the needle.”
To learn more about, or donate to, the 400 different #BlackPantherChallenges across the country: click here.
Also, Ypsilanti High School students are taking a field trip to see the film. Learn more about the partnership between Hero Nation and Ypsilanti High School by clicking here.
Tonight, the State will premiere the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe! From Director Ryan Coogler, best known for his work directing such films as "Fruitvale Station" and "Creed", the film finds T'Challa, otherwise known as the superhero Black Panther, returning home after the death of his father to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
SPECIAL SCREENINGS DOWNTOWN
At the Michigan, this film will continue the “Be Our Guest: The Films of Christopher Guest” series tonight at 9:30 PM. The film maintains Guest’s authentic brand of humor in another mockumentary, this time focusing on characters who compete at a national dog show. "A Mighty Wind" will conclude the series next Thursday, February 22 at the same time.
This will continue the “Enter the Samurai” Film Series at the Michigan next Monday, February 12 at 7:00 PM. In this Kurosawa epic, a samurai answers a village’s request for protection after they fall on hard times and need protection from bandits. After gathering six others to help him teach the people how to defend themselves, the village prepares to battle with the bandits.
Plays one night only at the Michigan Theater, Wednesday, February 21 at 7:00 PM, a documentary that finds one of the world’s most successful dance acts, the Grammy-nominated Above and Beyond, after they have left the electronic music world behind to go acoustic. The film includes appearances at the Hollywood Bowl, London’s Royal Albert Hall, and the Sydney Opera House.
At the State Theatre, “Jim Henson Presents the Muppets” continues this Saturday at 1:30 PM, and because it’s also part of the Toyota Family-Friendly Film Series presented by the Benard L. Maas Foundation, kids 12 & under get in free! In this 1999 installment to the Muppet franchise, Gonzo is contacted by his alien family through his breakfast cereal. But when the men in black kidnap him, it's up to Kermit and the gang to rescue Gonzo and help him reunite with his long-lost family.
The series concludes this week at the State with screenings of "Lost in Paris" on Sunday, February 18, "Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour" on Monday, February 19, and "The Love Witch" on Tuesday, February 20. Also screenings will take place at 7:00 PM.
Now playing at the State Theatre, the film stars Diane Kruger as a woman out for justice after her husband and son are suddenly killed in a bomb attack by a young neo-Nazi couple.
A fragile young woman who falls in love with her psychoanalyst. A few months later, she moves in with him, but soon discovers that her lover is concealing a part of his identity. At the State.
A seventeen year-old (played by Timothee Chalamet) begins a relationship with his father’s visiting research assistant (played by Armie Hammer), with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape. Also playing at the State.
From Director Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan plays as an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old coming of age in Sacramento, California in the early 2000s. The film also stars Laurie Metcalf as her headstrong mother who maintains a turbulent bond with her daughter. Playing at the State.
Playing at the State, this film stars Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding who rose amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in the late 80s and 90s, only to find her future in thrown into doubt after her ex-husband (played by Sebastian Stan) intervenes with a rival.
Stars 5-time Academy Award nominee Frances McDormand as a mother who commissions three signs leading into her town with a message directed at the town's revered chief of police after months have passed without a culprit in her daughter’s murder case. At the State Theatre.
The film stars Sally Hawkins as a mute custodian working in an isolated government laboratory where she develops a friendly relationship with a scaled creature living in a water tank. Playing at the State.
The Michigan Theater will screen the annual Oscar-nominated shorts. Presented in Live Action, Animated, and Documentary categories, the programs honor the best of short filmmaking from 2017, including "Edith + Eddie" in the Documentary category from Ann Arbor native Laura Checkoway with Thomas Lee Wrights.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman who becomes his muse and lover. At the Michigan Theater.
OPENING AT THE MULTIPLEX
From Writer/Director Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit, comes a new claymation adventure set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth. This film tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home.
A young Hebrew with supernatural strength defends his people, sacrificing everything to avenge his love, his people, and his God, after losing the love of his life to a cruel Philistine prince.
And "Black Panther" opens nationwide!
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