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Hollywood Insider Judas and the Black Messiah Review, Sundance, Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield

Photo: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’/Warner Bros. Pictures

“War is politics with bloodshed, and politics is war without bloodshed.”

“Black people need some peace, white people need some peace, and we’re gonna have to fight, we’re gonna have to struggle, we’re gonna have to struggle relentlessly to bring about some peace, because the people that we’re asking for peace, they’re a bunch of megalomaniac warmongers and they don’t even understand what peace means.”

Fred Hampton

2020 was a confusing and painful year for many Earth dwellers as COVID impacted the health of several, the international economy, and essentially shuffled the deck for what we all considered normal. Lots of people lost their lives while fighting the global virus without proper political response and aid, and the “Black Lives Matter” protests surged in response to horrific murders and hushed acts of violence against Blacks in America. It was an emotionally stressful time as many Americans circled the moral meri ground, either in active denial, championing these institutionalized crimes, or participating in the pursuit of justice.

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Those fighting for change were sad and enraged, while America’s quaint patriotic jingles were losing rhyme and reason (if they ever had any), “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” could have more accurately been worded, “Divisible, with liberty and justice for all rich, white men and those who help to maintain their power.” Domestic division erupted as corrupt political agenda and systematic racism was being illuminated and scrutinized. Friendships were lost, families were destroyed, fingers were pointed. The bigotry in America was being magnified–stirring civil unrest among heartbreak, all the while rearing a revolutionary turning point in our history.

Judas and the Black Messiah’ written by Shaka King and Will Berson, premiered its timely theme at the Sundance Film Festival (on February 1, 2021)– with its biographical betrayal of Illinois chapter Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton, played by ‘Get Out’ star Daniel Kaluuya. Daniel is a force to be reckoned with, employing serene speeches and charming humanism that make him lovable and resplendent as Fred Hampton. His words and actions burn with the intensity of conviction, designed to inspire as if he was possessed by the mark of justice and righteousness–stopping at nothing to unite humanity under equalities umbrella, supported by an unforgettable performance by his poet lover, Deborah Johnson–played by Dominique Fishback.

Bucks for Betrayal

“We don’t think you fight fire with fire best; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism. We stood up and said we’re not going to fight reactionary pigs and reactionary state’s attorneys like this and reactionary state’s attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We’re going to fight their reactions with all of us people getting together and having an international proletarian revolution.”

Fred Hampton

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Sneaky sleuth and FBI informant “William O’Neal”, played by ‘Sorry to Bother You’ star Lakeith Stanfield, subverted the operations of the Black Panthers by supplying key information along the way for several years. Posing as a friend and confidant, he lived in the belly of the beast, gaining the trust of the Panthers–all the while turning over valuable information for a pretty buck. Lakeith Stanfield is a treasure, he’s one of those rare actors (see Mads Mikkelsen) that can convey a world of dimension through his eyes alone as he stands “loyally” by their side, his eyes glossed with the internalized torment of someone whose heart can’t bear the weight of honest self-reflection.

After getting caught stealing a car, FBI agent Roy Mitchells (played by an always amazing Jesse Clemens) uses Lakeith as a pawn in exchange for his felony dropped and some monthly bucks, his “freedom” contingent on his loyalty to the feds. It seemed that Mitchells was truly convinced, in the beginning, that his orders were moral, voicing his angle “The Panthers and the Klan are one in the same” at O’Neal–convinced that their efforts to “police the police” needed rectification. After seeing how truly immoral and unconstitutional Hoover’s efforts to eradicate the group were, Mitchells had a moment where he had to confront the fact that he was not one of the good guys, and was in fact guided by the same invisible hands as O’Neal.

Post prison sentence, Hampton re-emerged to reclaim his lead in the Illinois Chapter, inspiring them again with his unyielding dedication and personal charisma–but he knew it wasn’t over. Repeatedly he was marked as a national threat under false investigations and Hoover was determined to annihilate any cohesive Black movement and silence his effective leadership. The various manipulations and tactics he employed to eradicate the Panther’s plan to serve the people was irredeemably implorable, and even in peaceful protest–Fred Hampton and his organization were painted as violent offenders and their freedom was viciously violated without remorse.

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‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ – History Repeats Itself

“…you can jail revolutionaries, but you can’t jail the revolution. You might run a liberator like Eldridge Cleaver out of the country, but you can’t run liberation out of the country. You might murder a freedom fighter like Bobby Hutton, but you can’t murder freedom fighting. And if you do, you’ll come up with answers that don’t answer, explanations that don’t explain, you’ll come up with conclusions that don’t conclude. And you’ll come up with people that you thought should be acting like pigs that’s acting like people and instead moving on pigs.”

Fred Hampton

The Black Panthers sought to liberate people from the chains of oppression. They were involved in a variety of community programs addressing food injustice, education development, and aimed to mitigate/treat illnesses–building programs to help children and impoverished communities. This film was timely and powerful, highlighting the recent discord concerning the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and exposing our country’s long history of power abuse over Black voices who dare strive for equal rights. These figures in our history, and now, who fight for peace–are the heroes that pave the path for more revolutionaries, and for our future. With an amazing soundtrack, amazing actors, and an efficient team, this film is a must-see!

‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ will be released in theatres and on ‘HBO MAX’ on February 12.

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Darrel Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Algee Smith, Martin Sheen

Directed by: Shaka King

Produced by: Charles D. King, Ryan Coogler, Shaka King | Screenplay by: Will Berson, Shaka King | Edited by: Kristen Sprague

Story by: Will Berson, Shaka King, Kenny Lucas, Keith Lucas | Music by: Mark Isham, Craig Harris | Cinematography: Sean Bobbit

By Melissa McGrath

Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.

An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”

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Author

  • Melissa McGrath is a writer for Hollywood Insider, offering rich and engaging content for reviews and features. Melissa feels at home with Hollywood Insider’s lively team who share an equal passion for the art of cinema. Having sought out compelling stories her whole life, she is eager to examine and share her observations with others interested in thought-provoking material. She believes in changing the world through meaningful dialogue and hopes to provide helpful insight with her work. She values open discussions concerning morality, culture, personal development, and holds a soft spot for cathartic humor. Through the art of storytelling, journalism, and cinema, Melissa seeks to help build a strong community of free-thinkers and cultivate a deeper understanding of the human experience.

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