Press play for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

By Katy St. John

Judas and the Black Messiah gained a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes (photo courtesy of cnn.com).

Judas and the Black Messiah, directed by the American film director Shaka King and produced by Ryan Coogler, is a powerful film. It is based on a true story that is set in the late 1960s about the Black Panther Party and the leader of it, Fred Hampton. A young man named Bill O’Neal gets caught at the beginning of the movie for criminal activity and then is basically promised better consequences if he helps give intel on the Black Panther Party to the feds, which he did. 

Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Sanfield—both having starred in the 2017 film Get Out—play Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal so well in this film that it was hard to not feel every rise, fall and feeling of their characters. Dominique Fishback recites an emotional poem she wrote about motherhood intersecting with the Black Panther Party from the perspective of her character, Deborah Johnson. She eloquently expresses her reality to Hampton, sharing with him her feelings about motherhood. 

Judas and the Black Messiah is full of profound symbolism and, in a lot of ways, exposes that 50 years later, America has not changed very much at all. The name of the film does it justice as viewers watch Bill O’Neal struggle with his identity as a Black man while also trying to save himself and appease the government officials he worked for. There were times when this internal battle came to the surface for O’Neal as viewers would see it dance across his face. The ending of the movie does his experience justice as viewers learn what came about in O’Neal’s life years later due to his shame and regret. 

Fred Hampton embodies the Black Messiah, giving his soul to the community and dedicating his life to the party. He reached out to different organizations, both Black-run and non-Black-run, to bring communities together for a greater cause and fight. He does the impossible without thinking twice. 

This film is moving, touching and sobering to say the very least. A viewer can watch as Black love meets Black pain, Black power meets Black victory.

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