France’s Defence Minister has slammed Marvel’s sci-fi movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” for what it calls a “false and misleading representation” of French troops.
“I strongly condemn this false and misleading representation of our Armed Forces,” French defence minister Sébastien Lecornu tweeted on Sunday.
In the franchise’s second instalment, which was released in France in November 2022, the people of Wakanda – a fictional African country – are trying to protect the nation’s resources from foreign powers. During the movie, a group of mercenaries is caught stealing resources belonging to Wakanda.
The defence minister’s reaction comes after a French journalist on Saturday pointed out the similarities between the camouflage uniforms of those mercenaries in the movie and those of the French troops who operated in Mali for almost ten years.
“I think of and pay tribute to the 58 French soldiers who died defending Mali at its request against Islamist terrorist groups,” Lecornu tweeted, responding to the journalist.
“While all the other elements of the film are fictional names and places there is a clear designation of France. The French military is painted as being involved in pillage of resources of the country and of course that is unacceptable,” a French Defence Ministry spokesperson also told CNN on Monday.
The depiction of French troops
A scene in the 2-hour-41 min film features bound French military personnel after they were dragged into a UN meeting by the Dora Milaje, Wakanda's elite corp.
In the storyline, the men were arrested during a secret mission to a Wakandan base in Mali where they tried to steal vibranium, a fictional resource, mostly found on the surface, in Wakanda.
The French military personnel who can be seen in the movie wore outfits that are strikingly similar to those which real-life soldiers from the counterterrorism Operation Barkhane wore.
In an aim to water down the resemblance and its possible influence, the French minister's tweet included a tribute to 58 real-life French soldiers who died while operating in Mali.
Following the Wakanda movie critics by the French authorities, some film and media houses have likened the comments to censorship of artwork. However, the defence ministry stressed that France was not calling for withdrawal or censorship of a work of art but, is against the ‘false representation of its army’ in the Marvel comic.
Battle of influence
After nearly a decade in Mali, Operation Barkhane personnel had to leave Mali on the request of the authorities last year. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was released last year as the French army suffered a redeployment in the Sahel which is plagued by jihadist violence.
The minister's comment which came months after the movie hit theatre are in line with the nation's new diplomatic strategy. In November, President Emmanuel Macron stressed that today "influence" is a "strategic priority"
The multiplication of so-called anti-France protests in countries across the continent -including Central African Republic, South Africa, Chad, Burkina Faso or Niger- is seen by some experts as a signal of an increasingly contested role in some African affairs.
"We face a steamroller that plays with the perceptions of local people who are in existential difficulty" from war and famine, a French military source acknowledged earlier this month.
Sources: CNN, AFP