If I could advise Ava DuVernay on Black Panther…

Look—just for the sake of dreaming, I’m going to imagine I get to sit down with Ava DuVernay and discuss the martial arts in BLACK PANTHER. If I could have that conversation, I’d advise her for free, just for the pleasure of having impact.  The action must express T’Challa’s personality and culture, being simultaneously exotic and hyper-efficient and effective, using both his physical skills and his environment, utilizing planned and improvised weaponry and revealing “intelligent motion” that is tactical as well as superbly gymnastic. It must vary from mysterious and hard to parse (for sequences in near darkness) to beautifully well framed with a highly developed spacial sense (note James Cameron).    It must look like nothing we’ve seen, but simultaneously trigger an “ahhh.  Yes” reaction.    My message to Ava: you’ve got this. You can do this.    And my direct suggestions:     Filipino martial arts are beautiful, fluid, and a great starting point to take a non-martial artist to visual speed and function (See Matt Damon in the “Bourne” films). I would like to see some silat-style motion as well, because there are ways it is astoundingly “smart” combat movement. But it must have African flavor and rhythm, or it will be dishonest. The team I would suggest would have their fingers in all those pies: Dennis Newsome for Capoeira, Kalinde Ayi for African arts in general, Cliff Stewart as a walking encyclopedia of death, and Jeff Imada for being the very best action choreographer in the world, with deep roots in FMA. And me.  Having studied African, Asian, Filipino, Indonesian and Western martial arts for forty years, and written more fight scenes than 99% of the people in the field, I know I could guide such a team superbly. I can dream, can’t I?

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