The recently-released Judas and the Black Messiah brings a history lesson as it embarks on an intimate look at the Chicago, Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party when it was led by Chairman Fred Hampton. The writers of the films, Keith and Kenny Lucas, recently explained to CinemaBlend the importance of showcasing the Black Panther movement as more than gun-wielding militants.
"It was quite essential to make sure that we presented the Panthers in a more realistic way and not the character that they've become, you know, the militant Black guys in black berets carrying guns. That was one aspect of them, and mostly the open aspect, but the Chicago, Illinois chapter, they were on the ground doing community organizing. And Hampton was a prototype of a community organizer and he also happened to be a great orator. So he was able to combine those oracle skills of Dr. King with the fire of Malcolm X at a young age. I think that gets lost on people, too, that they were so young, they were kids. But they had the foresight to be like, 'this capitalist system, it's not for us. The only way we're going to be able to fix our communities."
The movie features Daniel Kaluuya of Get Out and Black Panther fame as Fred Hampton. LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Atlanta), takes on the role of William O'Neal, a former thief turned spy for the FBI who betrays Hampton to the police. The official narrative surrounding Hampton painted him in a negative light, but according to the writers of Judas and the Black Messiah, his main goal was to bring people in his community together.
"Hampton, he just knew that intuitively, and we wanted to make sure - if you're going to make a movie that features Fred Hampton, you have to make sure you feature his message. And his message was about unity, love, bringing people together and working as a group, as a community to uplift. That was Hampton. It doesn't matter what you think about the Panthers. If you study Hampton and you read about his story, talk to people who knew Fred Hampton, like everyone everywhere, undoubtedly says, this was a man who was for the community and for the people. He wasn't about being a terrorist. He was about uplifting his community."
The buzz surrounding Judas and the Black Messiah has been highly positive so far, with the two main leads coming in for special praise. The film has been described as The Conformist meets The Departed. The director of the film, Shaka King, has previously collaborated with Stanfield on the 2017 short film LaZercism.
Judas and the Black Messiah stars Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Lil Rel Howery, and Martin Sheen. It came out in theaters and on HBO Max on February 12. This news was first reported at CinemaBlend.