Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah

It was nice to hear some actual leftist talking points in a film being heavily pushed by an enormous corporation, I’ll take anything that gets people excited to research history and ideology more in depth. However, I feel a large chunk of this film had a misguided focus. 

It’s structured like a tragedy, but for a film that’s trying to capture a revolutionary spirit, it becomes too nihilistic for its own good. The devolution of this film into sheer violence and massacre, with our only break from it being cutting to a character providing the intel for these standoffs and massacres to occur, just gives an overall feeling of hopelessness and plays into reformist rhetoric. 

Although the film does show some of Hampton’s community service, the imagery is front loaded in the first quarter of the story, and only vaguely alluded to in dialogue afterwards. Just because tension and violence between the Panthers and the pigs increased throughout 1969, doesn’t mean Hampton stopped his community building. He still had his school. He still had his breakfast program. Him and the Rainbow Coalition still participated and organized strikes. 

I feel like rounding out Hampton’s and the Panthers’ immensely powerful and positive influence on Chicago in a more clear and defined way would have done wonders for the effect and power of this film and left the audience with a clear sense of what actually needs to be done to fulfill Hampton’s legacy and dreams about the world we live in.

The hyper-focus on the barbaric and criminal FBI and law enforcement and unflinching look at just how ruthless and inhuman they are certainly left an impact, but the unwillingness to include the capitalist enterprises that call on those fascists forces in the shaping of this film’s theme left me a bit disappointed. 

This is a hard film to rate, as many of my grievances are things the film omitted or didn’t engage in, and what it did depict was done so with a lot of spirit and passion. I just feel a lot of it was placed into a Hollywoodized structure that doesn’t do the subject matter justice. 

Sudbury, MA. Media room. HBO Max.

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