Black Panthers

Black Panthers ★★★

Hollywood is full of example of studios meddling in postproduction and adding superfluous voiceover narration that undercuts the power of the story and images. I felt something similar happening here. Varda’s camera captures the Panthers and their community’s frustration, rage, and determination. Unlike news reportage, she gives them space to voice their political objectives, their 10-point plan, lessons they’ve taken from Cuba and Mao, arguments for Newton’s innocence, and stories of police injustice. However, the objective power of listening to their voices is undercut by voiceover telling us how we should feel about what we’ve heard them say. This brings the piece closer to something like a CBS 60 Minutes segment, but with narration by a supporter, than one of the Maysles’ direct cinema films or even Varda’s Uncle Yanco with its limited personal voiceover.