JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH 15

Judas and the Black Messiah is one of the many excellent films that was released during the pandemic in 2021 and didn't get the cinema release it deserved. It focuses on the black power movement in the USA in the late 1960s - a subject matter that resonates with the more recent rise of Black Lives Matter as a response to systemic racism and inequality.

It focuses on Fred Hampton, a young and charismatic leader of the Black Panthers in Illinois, brilliantly played by British actor Daniel Kaluuya (who won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for his depiction). Hampton’s work brings him into conflict with the FBI and the local police, who use a petty criminal called William O’Neal to infiltrate the movement. The film shows O’Neal’s inner turmoil and conflict (and Lakeith Stanfield is superb in the role) - as well as offering a nuanced view of Hampton and his aims. A heavily made up Martin Sheen plays FBI director J Edgar Hoover.

Amidst uniformly strong reviews, the Independent wrote: “Judas and the Black Messiah possesses its own kind of cultural power. Its director, Shaka King, has created a work that is slickly and efficiently directed, evocative of both classic biopics and Seventies crime thrillers.”

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