The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution
Time Out says
It may not tell the whole truth, but this is a forthright, educational overview of a hugely important popular movement
It’s enough to give you hope for humanity. The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 and was essentially over by 1973. Its members spent most of the intervening years being harassed, infiltrated, arrested and in extreme cases murdered by the FBI and the police with the full backing of the US government. Four decades later, practically everything they stood for is in the mainstream and there’s a black president in the White House.
This documentary takes a straight-up approach to the Panther story, interviewing many of the key players but skipping over the chaos and controversy that followed former chairman Huey Newton’s flight to Cuba in 1974. The most eye-opening sequence concerns the rise to prominence of Illinois chairman Fred Hampton, a figure the filmmakers paint as the closest thing the party had to a conciliatory, Martin Luther King-style leader: the ‘black messiah’ FBI director J Edgar Hoover was so terrified of. Hampton’s death in 1969 at the hands of a police hit squad might, the doc argues, have been the moment the Panthers lost the fight.
This is a forceful, initially uplifting, ultimately sobering illustration of how much protest matters, how far those in power will go to stifle it, and how ugly and criminal those efforts look in hindsight. J Edgar must be spinning in his grave.