a k’s review published on Letterboxd:
some dashed off thoughts from when i was livetweeting it
10 minutes into judas and the black messiah hampton gives a speech about co-opted and diluted iconography used to contain and undermine revolutionary energy, which feels like the movie was anticipating the discourse lol (thoughts on this at the bottom)
kaluuya and stanfield being 10 years older than the people they're playing functionally dilutes some the material's power despite the best intentions of the writing and acting given part of the tragedy was tied to their age, also has a very "hello fellow kids" vibe
was kinda worried they'd actually get the domestic politics right and fumble the internationalism but FRELIMO and the MPLA just came up so that's promising
the maoist pillow talk is cute and a neat way of showing a living ideology beyond recitation of speeches
the scene where they have a meetup for a truce with the gang and it looks like something from the warriors lives up to what i imagined when reading about the various panthers/adjacent formations and their activities (and also why I’m not necessarily opposed to the endeavor, as a warriors style movie with panthers politics wouldn’t be bad way of translating the communal energy attached to their ideas)
i like the voiceover in prison about the fertile conditions for organizing inmates, many already politicized, with the contradictions inside already heightened to the point of being black and white, but like many of the points feels like it checks off a box of hampton quotes rather than incorporating it into a larger thesis
so far the rat's story is at least the opposite of blackkklansman, completely unheroic, plus offers a somewhat useful primer on the feds' divide and conquer tactics, a straight line from "every ghetto is occupied territory" to colonial containment strategies
feel like it could use the presence of other panther luminaries, really leans into the sole savior messiah thing in the title in a way that i feel like hampton, while one of a kind, would also push back against in service of representing a more collective organizational effort, although the part where hoover goes through the a file on the panthers in exile or on trial you at least get a sense of their being taken out of the picture
jury's out on whether hampton stressing solidarity w/ the dprk will come up (edit: it didn't) but hoover asking an agent to think of the war on black liberation at home like the war in korea makes me think of christine hong's thesis for a violent peace www.sup.org/books/title/?id=28991 (it’s honestly genuinely impressive how committee the movie is to showing the feds as white supremacist mercenaries orchestrating not just murders but defamatory material that tainted panther legacy far after).
it’s a good thing the movie doesn’t handwring about armed self defense otherwise the scene that makes this point (one i've seen in a number of places but here in nkrumah's handbook of revolutionary warfare) could be easily misread as handwringing: "Imperialism constantly infiltrates revolutionary opposition groups with agents, "special police", and others, compelling such groups to arm even before they have attained the organizational stage of armed struggle."
something inert about judas that’s almost interesting for how dirge-like it is, ghosts reliving the promise of a revolution foreclosed, a scattered mosaic of texts briefly taken off the shelf, but rewatching murder of fred hampton and it’s rly hard to overstate just how alive, palpable, in reach their vision was drive.google.com/file/d/19EDrq7_XCQbiSD1AxnKYzoB4lFR73O3A/view
anyways, it was less watered down than expected given the pre-emptive reactions to the idea of it but i don't think entirely resolves any of the contradictions a studio product like this entails. Not sure there can be a big/midsized studio hampton movie that fits the criteria it's being judge by, if representation is a trap through which hollywood will co-opt and neutralize anything it touches, then the best way to uphold hampton's legacy is to apply his principles to your organizing.
Clearly a film's profits aren't liberating any of the Panthers still on the inside. But this is to an extent a larger problem than just Judas, in that the idea of making a good socialist film from within the studio system is still detached from any mass movement aside from lip service. Some of the most compelling agitprop from Cuba, Vietnam during and after the war, Mao-era China, is their function as part of a larger national effort to rebuild society as opposed to attempting to check off enough well-meaning boxes that represent the idea of that to hbo max subscribers. Some get tossed off as constrained by the rules of state propaganda but at the very least they can be measured in relation to the collective project as opposed to merely representing one as best as possible within the constraints of the US studio system.