“I don’t just create superhero movies; I create worlds,” Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-winning costume designer behind "Black Panther", "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X," said during a lecture at IU Oct. 5. “To be in this industry, you have to give 200% of yourself.”
Carter first attended a screening of "Black Panther" at 3 p.m. in IU Cinema, then gave a lecture at 7 p.m. in Franklin Hall.
The lecture, which was followed by a Q&A with the audience, focused mainly on Carter’s work on “Black Panther,” which earned her an Academy Award.
Carter described the concepts and processes behind many of the design choices that influenced the film’s aesthetic.
Many of the film’s costumes were inspired by real life. The Border Tribe in the film, for example, is based off of the Lesotho Tribe of South Africa.
“[The director] said he couldn’t make a movie about Africa without going to Africa,” Carter said. “We had a special opportunity with ‘Black Panther’ to showcase an afrofuture culture. The texture of the Black Panther suit was important to make him both a superhero and an African king”
Carter’s lecture included a slideshow presentation that documented her efforts in bringing the world of “Black Panther” to life. The slideshow featured concept art detailing alternative costume designs for many characters, in addition to videos from the set showcasing the costumes in motion and pictures of many real-life inspirations for costumes.
One of the aspects of her craft that Carter emphasized was the importance of minor details and functionality.
“We had to design the suit so that [Chadwick Boseman] could move and breath in it,” Carter said. “Things can’t just be pretty for the sake of it. They have to have a function. You wouldn’t believe how many discussions we had about the tip of the costume’s ears.”
The “Black Panther” comic books that the film was based on also served as an inspiration for many of the film’s most important costumes, including the Black Panther suit itself. However, Carter discussed how some aspects of the comic book needed to be left behind, such as Black Panther’s royal guard, who dress in skirts and swimsuits in the comics.
“It’s one thing to have a nice drawing; it’s another thing for it to function,” Carter said. “I needed the women to be taken seriously as warriors. The costumes we came up with completely cover the female form and are still beautiful.”
Carter has been working in Hollywood for more than 30 years, beginning with Spike Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze.” This began a working relationship between the two that has lasted for 14 films, and helped launch a career which earned Carter two Academy Award nominations and a win for her work in costume design.
“A costume is never truly finished,” Carter said. “But once an actor is in costume and on camera, it’s done.”
The IU Cinema will be showing “Do the Right Thing” at 7 p.m. Nov. 4. Additional information is available on the IU Cinema website. Tickets are available for these showings online, at the IU Auditorium Box Office or in the IU Cinema Lobby an hour before each showing.
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