Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah

On one hand yes, it’s technically well made, beautifully acted, and directed film. Although Daniel Kaluuya’s black American default accent doesn’t do Fred any justice, the cast is damn fantastic. Lakeith continues to show complexity and vulnerability in his performance, Dominique Fishback’s tender performance is gonna stick with me, and to be completely honest Ashton Sanders, although his role is smaller, wears the Black Panther Party presence, swag and delivery that keeps me excited to see him in more things. It’s also dope seeing Algee Smith do something this exciting, and Dominique Thorn was killing it as well. And shoutout to Khris Davis who y’all probably saw as Tracy in “Atlanta”, acting his ass off in the scene he’s given as if he was born to play a character in the 70s.

The script itself is very strong, the writing is sharp, and each actor attacks their lines with purpose. The direction has some strong moments with the combo of its cinematography and blocking, as well as just how crisp this movie looks even streaming in 4K. To me the score wasn’t too memorable and would’ve preferred if there were sounds from that era to completely immerse yourself to that time.

On the other hand this is a huge example of Hollywood bastardizing points of history. There’s not even the slightest attempt to go deep into what made the Black Panther Party who they are beyond their aesthetics. Almost as if they’re afraid to even explore the politics. And almost as if they’re afraid to explore them as complex human beings.

In the grand scheme of what was going on in society during that time was the effect that the Civil Rights era and the Assassination of MLK and Malcolm X and other black leaders had on the youth. To rob these people of that youth and place grown actors (mainly Daniel and Lakeith) portraying these historical figures that were 21 years old feels as though that aspect of empathy and the gravitas at what was at stake is thrown completely out the window.

Why the hell do we need the perspective of the FBI to be so instrumental to the narrative of the film? Why is it that we can’t allow our stories to be told with historical  figures that go against traditional America norms without having to resort to a “both sides” dialectic? Can our own narratives not survive amongst the Hollywood capitalistic machine to the point where a movie about Fred Hampton gets made, it can’t even be about just Fred Hampton, but also about the one who got him killed, and the killers?

The fact that we’ve gotten to the point where Fred Hampton is getting the MLK treatment troubles me. Especially in this day in age where black consciousness has pretty much been obscured to the point where it’s more common to watch a Hollywood movie to get your knowledge of the Panthers, rather than doing the reading.

There’s too much of a gray area in the film that doesn’t allow the audience to fully understand that these were in fact real people, not characters. That the Black Panther Party were much more than what this film can even encapsulate. Fred Hampton’s politics being completely whitewashed in order to fit a more liberal ideology in the same manner of MLK does not sit well with me, and leads me to believe that no one is safe.