Ryan Coogler
Ryan Coogler (Photo: Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Friday, April 19, director, producer and screenwriter Ryan Coogler wrote a guest column for Deadline outlining his decision to keep the much-awaited Black Panther sequel in Georgia despite a sweeping rewrite of Georgia’s voting laws to suppress Black voters after a record turnout earlier this year. In March, Governor Brian Kemp as the Associated Press put it, signed a 98-page measure into law to change how elections are administered, including new photo ID requirements for voting absentee by mail. In a statement, President Joe Biden said “this law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.” 

“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.” He continued: “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.” Coogler’s decision came after he educated himself on the specifics of Georgia, specifically speaking with voting rights activists in the state who helped him to understand how the very people who will be employed by the film are the same people whose voting rights are being suppressed.  “What I will be doing is using my voice to emphasise the effects of SB202, its shameful roots in Jim Crow, and doing all I can to support organisations fighting voter suppression here in the state,” he wrote in the column. 

Hollywood seems torn on the matter. Notably, Will Smith and director Antoine Faqua announced their production of Emancipation, a “runaway slave drama,” would no longer be filmed in Georgia, saying “we cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting.”