Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah ★★★½

MannVanuary 2022 - The Noirer They Come

Something of a spoiler there in the title.

The messiah in question is Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, while the Judas is William O'Neal, a car thief who turned FBI informer when faced with the threat of prison, who infiltrates the Black Panthers.

The film does perhaps presume too much on the part of the viewer it terms of their knowledge of the Black Power movement, and in that regard I would point you towards something like The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975.

But in any case, it could be said that the film is less about this particular situation, and more about betrayal in general.

We also get an insight into the FBI's, and in particular Hoover's attitude towards an organisation who, while still rooted in the community, and running food programmes, also chose to carry guns. That answer finally comes, as does the final solution to the recognition that jailing Hampton would only make him more famous.

For me, it is the postscript which is the most telling, filling us in on the aftermath of the depicted events, and the end of a television interview O'Neal gave in 1989. Ultimately, he is the one passing judgement on himself.