Sundance 2021: “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

History will never look faithfully at those who tried to eliminate freedom of speech or activists that tried hard to promote the best what society can offer. This is why the cinematic universe is important to remind us of the losses the world has endured, and the failed attempts of passing the message by killing the messenger.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is the story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), an American activist and revolutionary socialist who became the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Blank Panther Party, and the infiltration of William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), an FBI informant who will lead Hampton’s eventual assassination by age 21. It’s a stunning look at what Hampton wanted to achieve and why FBI, especially J. Edgar Hoover, did not want his message to be spread and saw him as a threat.

Directed by Shaka King, the film opens with William O’Neal, whose failed attempt in stealing a car led to his arrest and the fateful meeting with the FBI Agent, Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). In order to reduce his jail time, O’Neal agrees to enter the BPP to spy on Hampton and his party. On the other hand, we are introduced to a young and fearless Fred Hampton, whose passionate speeches such as ‘I am revolutionary’ is superbly captured by Daniel Kaluuya. It’s Kaluuya who showcases Hampton’s ability to unite people through his gift of persuasion.

As for LaKeith Stanfield, Judas of the BPP, there is no question about how he embodied the most important man for FBI, and his willingness to sacrifice the ideology of Hampton and how it could positively affect the back community, in exchange for his well being. The bravura performances from the entire cast and flawless direction by Shaka King, “Judas and the Black Messiah” perfectly explains, in Hampton’s own words, “why the revolutionary can be killed, but not the revolution. Why the freedom fighter can be killed, and not the freedom,” which resonates so much today, it’s terrifying at sometimes.

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