This documentary tells the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, one of the 20th century's most alluring and controversial organizations that captivated the world's attention for nearly 50 years.
From the same director
Angela Arnold (voice), Erica Ball (voice), Rhon G. Flatts (voice), Eric Lockley (voice), Nola Nelson (voice), Stu Richel (J. Edgar Hoover (voice)), Jason Torres (voice), Trudy Williams (voice), Blair Anderson (Himself - Black Panther Party), Omar Barbour (Himself - Black Panther Party), Julian Bond (Himself - Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC]), Marlon Brando (Himself (archive footage)), Elaine Brown (Herself - Black Panther Party), Scot Brown (Himself - Historian), William F. Buckley (Himself - Firing Line (archive footage) (as William F. Buckley Jr.)), William Calhoun (Himself - Black Panther Party), Clayborne Carson (Himself - Historian), Eldridge Cleaver (Himself - Black Panther Party (archive footage)), Kathleen Cleaver (Herself - Black Panther Party), Dennis Cunningham (Himself - Attorney), Emory Douglas (Himself - Black Panther Party), Jim Dunbar (Himself - Journalist), Flores Forbes (Himself - Black Panther Party), Sherwin Forte (Himself - Black Panther Party), Ronald Freeman (Himself - Black Panther Party)...
Stanley Nelson (written by)
Sam Aleshinloye (assistant producer), Sally Jo Fifer (executive producer: ITVS), Laurens Grant (producer), Rebecca Kent (associate producer), Nicole London (associate producer), Stanley Nelson (producer)
*May contain spoilers, but not really* The first thing that struck me about this film was the absence of talk about revolutionary theory or even tactical practice. With a name like it has one might think it would unpack the nuanced and much debated term "vanguard" a little more. The influence of Mao Tse Tung thought is completely absent apart from a sign that says "Chairman Mao says: Free Huey," which is never explained or even mentioned. Primarily the film tells the story of what happened, but does not explore motivations, expectations, hopes, dreams or rationale any more than is necessary for a cursory tally of events.
However, it is actually an entertaining film for precisely that reason. There are guns, there is action, there is insanity; or more properly put, allegations of insanity. Actually, the film is pretty sensationalistic. If you're a radical interested in an analysis of the BPP this is not the place to look. I get the sense that the interviews in the film are brutally chopped up.
My favorite part of the film was also my favorite part of BPP history and that is Fred Hampton's work in Chicago and his resulting assassination by agents of the state. The film actually does make a pretty good case for why Hoover's FBI, the Nixon administration and the cops in Chicago considered him dangerous. However, one of the strongest arguments for his perceived danger from the state (and I do think it was justified) is the eloquence of his speeches and clips of these speeches are sadly lacking. One my favorite speeches is the one where he says: We've got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don't fight racism with racism. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don't fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.
We ain't gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we're gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we're gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That's what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.
In the film this speech was cut off after the first two sentences.
Additionally, the film focused solely on what was going on with the Panthers at the time and completely obfuscated the context of the time. It made mention of white allies but it did not talk at all about the Weather Underground, for example, who issued a "Declaration of War" against the US government in response to the assassination of Hampton and subsequently bombed multiple government buildings.
Like I said, this is an entertaining movie and some parts are even inspiring, but if you're looking for the definitive story of the Black Panther Party, this is not the place.
3 wins & 6 nominations
Primetime Emmy Awards • Black Reel Awards • Cleveland International Film Festival • Image Awards • International Documentary Association • National Board of Review, USA • RiverRun International Film Festival • Sheffield International Documentary Festival • Stockholm Film Festival
1960s, deception, black panther party, black panthers, reenactment, law and order, empowerment, solidarity, education, child welfare, social welfare, social program, free meal, health clinic, government surveillance, police surveillance, fire hose used on a person, police beating, political power, power, black power, exile, on the run, political activism, tv news, american history, poverty alleviation, socialist, conspiracy, militant...
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