Martial arts cinema has evolved over the years to include movies coming out of not just Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China but Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and more recently Cambodia. Not to mention India, the United States, the UK, France, and others. What these countries have in common is their use of Asian based martial arts ( for the most part) to drive fight scenes, storylines, and characters. As a Capoeira player for the last 18 years, I brimmed with excitement when Besouro was released in 2009. I thought this would usher in an age where African and African Diaspora based fighting arts would be the main fighting styles in some action movies. While Capoeira has been included in fight scenes in movies such as Never Back Down 2, Falcon Rising, Undisputed 3, and Tom Yum Goong, it only has been featured as the principle martial art in Only the Strong (1993).
It’s 2015 and I am brimming with hope for full length movies that will use an African/African Diaspora martial art/combat game as the basis for its fighting style. Marvel’s The Black Panther set for release in 2017, offers a unique opportunity to, at least, include some African/African Diaspora based fighting styles being that the character is from the Warrior King of the fictitious African country of Wakanda. The Black Panther is only one potential vehicle to showcase African/African Diaspora combat games check out my thoughts on why I still believe they have a place in today’s martial arts and action cinema:
1. Sword and Soul Novels- Before I f*&%k up the definition of Sword and Soul click this link to see the definition by those who write and create this genre of fantasy fiction.
2. Independent filmmaker, artists, and writers such as Baba Balogun who is the author of Once Upon A Time in Afrika, Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman, Fist of Afrika, and others. He runs an excellent blog at chroniclesofharriet.com and you should definitely check it out.
3. Valuable academic research on African and African Diaspora Martial traditions. Historians, anthropologists, and martial artists such as Dr. Edward Powe via his Blac Foundation and his publications keep information about African and African Diasporic martial arts coming to those who are interested.
4. Interest in seeing something “new” on the screen. Martial arts movie audiences (well all movie audiences) crave to see something different. The aforementioned example of Asian countries whose martial arts were almost unheard of in the West come to mind. Think of movies like The Raid and The Raid 2 which have fans eagerly awaiting the third installment and who love the screen brutality and artistry of Silat or the jaw dropping Muay Thai Tony Jaa used in Ong Bak. African/African Diasporic fighting styles have the potential to produce the same excitement if choreographed correctly and presented with good stories and emotional content.
5. Nollywood and other local film markets in African countries will eventually turn to their own combat games and traditions (more) to enhance their fight scenes and storylines. African countries with burgeoning film industries may already have an built-in overseas market due to African immigrants from various nations immigrating to places in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East and wanting to see films with an aesthetic and plots with familiarity and cultural significance.
These potential reasons( and there are more) leave me hopeful that we will see African and African Diaspora* combat games and martial arts as the focal point for fight scenes and storylines for martial arts movies. If you are an indie filmmaker who uses African/African Diaspora combat games or martial arts in movies, please feel free to contact me so that we can include you in our Indie Showcase.
Capoeira Fight scene from City of Lost Souls
featured image courtesy of dailymail.co.uk
*note: This post does not seek to examine the validity of every African/African Diasporic Martial Art or combat game or techniques and philosophies attributed to them. We are simply talking about the possibility of African/African Diaspora Martial Arts or combat games (whether ancient, modern, or created for the screen) as the driving force behind new action and martial arts movies. I know that Shaolin Temple has sent representatives to a few African countries to spread modern Shaolin Martial Arts and I know that here are and will be several indie films that show Shaolin Wu Shu but in this post I am not including them because I am talking about fighting styles that consciously refer to themselves as African or African Diaspora.