In honor of the November 11 theatrical debut of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the Walt Disney Company recently hosted a community screening at El Capitan Theater in Hollywood for its nonprofit collaborators serving the next generation of storytellers, innovators, and leaders.
Disney awarded funding to those partners providing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and arts education to young people from historically underrepresented communities through its Future Storytellers initiative. Awardees included Ghetto Film School (GFS) and Girls Who Code (GWC).
GFS delivers nine sequential courses in film production and creative writing to educate, celebrate and develop the next generation of great storytellers. Executive Director Brandon Santiago spoke fondly of their relationship with Disney.
“We create platforms for our students to tell the stories that they want to tell. Those who transition out of GFS are looking to find a career in filmmaking, and Disney has been a key contributor in terms of financial donations, and a premier pipeline for our alumni,” he said.
GWC runs programs during the academic year teaching high school girls computing skills like programming, robotics and web design, with a mission to close the gender gap in entry-level tech jobs by 2030.
“Disney is one of our marquee summer immersion program partners,” said Ashley Gramby, senior director, Marketing and Communications. “Our students immerse themselves for one summer learning to code, and Disney has mentored them at [computer animation studio] Pixar Studios.”
The sneak preview was hosted by Marc Brown, co-anchor for ABC7 Eyewitness News. Brown, a Narbonne High and USC alum, moderated a brief fireside chat with two Disney leaders, including Jennifer Cohen, executive vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility.
“From its historic casting to advanced technology to culturally relevant storytelling, ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ is one of the greatest and most anticipated movies ever. When young people watch this film, we want them to walk away believing that their futures are boundless and being inspired to pursue their passions, grow their skills, and share their unique talents with the world,” said Cohen.
Several teen and young adult film students shared how they were inspired by the film and mused on how it ties in with what they are learning. Alexander McDaniel praised the production values.
“We’re learning how to watch movies and how to break down storylines. I found myself breaking down camera shots — the editing, the cuts — I could see it all happening. And the way they brought Native American history into the movie and made it prevalent was beautiful. It changed me as a filmmaker,” he said.
Commenting on the process of filmmaking, Natalie Li said, “Now I think of the character arc, the exposition, and the resolution of how Shuri got from point A to B in her personality. Also, the cinematography, lighting, and angles. It’s just a different level of approach to understanding and analyzing film.”
“I got chills!,” said Lauren Cho. “The movie was the epitome of women empowerment. The tribute to T’Challa made my day. I’m trying to innovate and use technology in a novel and creative way to give back to my community the way Shuri utilized technology to help Wakanda.”
Kayla Holsey observed, “The one thing that stuck out for me was the girl power all the way through. From Shuri and her epic entrances to RiRi Williams and her intelligence to Okoye and her power! Based on this movie, my stories will be clear and concise, with a few plot twists mixed in!”
Audience members also walked the red carpet, took pictures, and visited a costume display in the El Cap’s Lower Lounge before hearing a special video message from the cast. Even the Dora Milaje, the all-female special forces of Wakanda, made a surprise appearance. Nearly 1,000 people saw the movie before its wide release.
El Capitan Theatre is a fully restored movie palace on Hollywood Blvd near Highland Ave. It is owned by the Walt Disney Company and serves as the venue for a majority of the Walt Disney Studios’ film premieres.
For more information, visit https://impact.disney.com/charitable-giving/next-generation/