Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★★★

Long live Shaka King! With some TV under his belt and a feature I’ve heard many people love, I’m new to King. But if this movie is what we can expect from his work, well goddamn. The camera movement drew you in. The edits filled you with anxiety and dread. The performances were kingmaker level.

On to the screenplay, Will Berson and Shaka King (along with a story by from the FUCKING LUCAS BROTHERS) crafted this story as a descent in such a perfect way. Even if you’re familiar with Hampton’s tragic tale—the journey of William O’Neal has you on the edge of your seat. There is a moment in this story (a callback) that had me yelling at my fucking screen. It’s so well written.

Another thing I have to bring up is the comparison of Hampton to Jesus Christ. While one could make the argument that this over glorifies Hampton and perhaps dwindles others around him (specifically the efforts of Black womxn and the queer Black community at the time), I would argue that the movie’s comparison actually has the affect in the opposite direction. I think it grounds the tale of Jesus. He really was this guy just walking around and talking ideas and people were like “Holy shit! I don’t like this. Let’s deal with him”. I think making an icon of Jesus watered down his ideas. White washed most of his teachings. I think the film does a good job of portraying how complicated and complex the Panther party was and is asking us to take in the whole picture of them and not fall into the trap of “legends”. 

Let’s remember these figures as people. People with lives that intertwined with other people. I think of Jake’s mother said in perhaps my favorite scene of the movie: “He did that thing. But he also did so much more”.

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