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Judas and the Black Messiah

This historical drama set in Chicago is stories of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), who was chairman of the Black Panther Party in Illinois, and Bill O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield), the Panther and FBI informant who betrayed Hampton. It is interesting watching this film on the heels of several other films this year, including The United States vs Billie Holiday, MLK/FBI, One Night in Miami, and the Small Axe feature film series by Steve McQueen; the FBI’s fear of Black Americans, J Edgar Hoover’s role in creating a national narrative about them, the underlying and systemic racism, and the despicable abuse of power are undeniable. These films together need to be recognized for their powerful retelling of history. This particular film, like, the others, is excellent. The screenplay crackles in its telling of the story from multiple viewpoints. The acting overall is fantastic, but especially by Kaluuya and Stanfield. In my view, Stanfield gives the more nuanced and complex performance as a man who was clearly part of the movement, betrayed Hampton, and had to continually deal with the dilemmas raised by his work as a mole. I would have liked to have seen more context around the Black Panther movement and how Hampton rose to power, but the point of the film was to highlight the connections between these two men. This is an excellent film and should be watched, along with the others mentioned. Big thumbs up from me. (2020; 4.5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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