The true story of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton and
his betrayal at the hands of FBI informant Bill O'Neal in 1969.
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
Directed by Shaka King
Written by Will Benson and Shaka King
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith,
Darrell Britt-Gibson, Martin Sheen
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actor (Daniel Kaluuya),
Best Original Song (Fight for You)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(LaKeith Stanfield), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography
This nation has so many dark stains on its history. So much blood spilt on this seemingly endless crusade for equality and equity. Violence has been our go-to route for concepts that have obvious, moral answers. The Civil Rights Movement, though ultimately successful in its fight for black equality, saw so many freedom fighters die at the hands of those who saw civil rights as the end of their way of life. It's disgusting, and films like Judas and the Black Messiah ensure we never forget how it happened and why. There are many who don't know the name Fred Hampton. I won't lie. I didn't know that name until last year, when the trailer for this film came out. Then I looked him up, and was equal parts inspired and horrified. This film tells his story, and the story of the man who betrayed him.
Daniel Kaluuya continues to show audiences why he is one of the most talented character actors working today with his performance as Fred Hampton. The English Kaluuya transforms vocally and physically into the civil rights icon, succeeding in portraying his larger-than-life presence and his intimate humanity. On the other side of the coin is LaKeith Stanfield's incredible performance as FBI informant Bill O'Neal, who infiltrated the Black Panthers as Hampton's security chief. O'Neal gradually started to believe Hampton's message, and ultimately was partially responsible for Hampton's death at the hands of the FBI. The story of everything that led to that fateful night is astonishing, and the finale is nothing short of horrific. Make no mistake about it. What happened that night was cold-blooded murder.
Judas and the Black Messiah is going to turn some heads. It features two outstanding performances from Kaluuya and Stanfield, and tells a story we all should know. In history class, we hear about Martin Luther King Jr., and we at least gloss over Malcolm X, but we never learn about Fred Hampton. He had just as strong a dream as Dr. King, and he was just as fierce and passionate as Malcolm. In the end, like those two great leaders, Hampton paid for his vision with his life. The reason I love biopics so much is that, regardless of accuracy, they shine a light on people throughout history that should never be forgotten.