'Black Panther' director has Oakland roots

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- The Oakland native who directed "Black Panther" also brought us the movies "Fruitvale" and "Creed." But there are expectations for this movie that go beyond how many tickets are sold and how much money it makes.

Stars, critics and fans alike have praised the highly-anticipated film for its mostly black cast and powerful female characters.

Marvel's "Black Panther" movie is a big screen update of one of the first black comic book superheroes. T'Challa is king of the African Nation of Wakanda, a country with futuristic technology existing alongside traditions that date back centuries.

RELATED: Why 'Black Panther' means so much to African-Americans

Director Ryan Coogler wanted to show the tension between the new and the old.

"We wanted T'Challa's job to be complex. We wanted the moral questions in Wakanda to be ones that are more than just black and white," Coogler said.

RELATED: Cal State East Bay asst. professor discusses 'Black Panther'

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Dr. Lonny H. Avi Brooks studies afro-futurism and is an associate professor of communication at Cal State East Bay.

Coogler's journey from Oakland to Hollywood was also complex. Before he got into film school, he spent two years working as a counselor at San Francisco's Juvenile Hall.

Colleagues say he had a natural affinity for dealing with troubled youth.

"Worked well with the kids. You knew he was raised well and his heart was in the right place," former coworker Pat Yalon said.

Even after he got into film school he kept in touch. "Sometimes he would send some of his cinema projects for my son to watch," former coworker Toni Ratliff-Powell said.

The industry predicts "Black Panther" could become one of the highest grossing Marvel movies ever, and maybe one of the biggest money makers of any genre.

RELATED: Here's why Viola Davis, JJ Abrams and more are raising money for kids to see 'Black Panther'

But, to comic book fan Rafe Chisholm, the film's biggest value is contained in its message to young black girls and boys. "You don't have to be in tech, you don't have to be in arts, you don't have to be in entertainment or sports, but you can excel at something," Chisholm said.

Next week, with Coogler's blessing, Chisholm will host a special screening for 200 youth at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater.

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