The highly anticipated Black Panther 2 is being filmed in Georgia, where director Ryan Coogler says the movie will remain despite the state’s recent restrictive voting laws.
In a guest column written for Deadline, Coogler explains how he was “profoundly disappointed” to hear about the controversial SB202 being signed into law in a state that “holds a special place” in his heart.
“The fight for full enfranchisement is fundamental to the African-American struggle in this country and to this country’s claim to functioning democracy,” Coogler wrote. “As an African-American, and as a citizen, I oppose all attempts, explicit and otherwise, to shrink the electorate and reduce access to the ballot.”
Coogler’s column was written mere days after Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua decided to pull production of their slave drama Emancipation out of the state. In a joint statement, Smith and Fuqua said they could not “in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.”
But Coogler sees the issue differently. After speaking with voting rights activists within the state, he realized how many people are employed by the film and how leaving the state would also affect local vendors and businesses.
“For those reasons, I will not be engaging in a boycott of Georgia,” Coogler wrote. “What I will be doing is using my voice to emphasize the effects of SB202, its shameful roots in Jim Crow, and doing all I can to support organizations fighting voter suppression here in the state.”
The 34-year-old filmmaker from Oakland wants congress to pass H.R. 1, also known as The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
He urged the senate to “do its job” and pass the For The People Act. “Our film is staying in Georgia,” Coogler wrote. “Additionally, I have made a personal commitment to raise awareness about ways to help overturn this harmful bill, and continue to get educated on this matter from people on the ground. I will encourage everyone working with me to tap in with the local community directly affected by Senate Bill 202 and to leverage their influence and resources to aid in the fight for this particular and essential pillar of democracy.”