An African-American car thief is given a choice – either he serves five years in prison for impersonating a cop and stealing a car, or walk home free: the deal is that he has to infiltrate the Black Panthers and pass on vital information to the FBI. (For the unversed, please look up Google for Black Panthers.) The tropes are familiar: the protagonist will go through moral conflict till he has a change of heart that will bring him into direct conflict with his handlers. But wait, it’s not as obvious as it seems. Based on true incidents that happened in the late 60s, Shaka King’s JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (2021, US) reportedly went through countless re-writes over several years, changing the film’s POVs and negotiating the obvious tropes of a political thriller to arrive at a stimulating narrative that showcases a disturbing epoch involving racism and human rights violation in contemporary American history.
This all-Black production was nominated for the 93rd Academy Awards in five categories this year, fetching the Best Supporting Actor award for Daniel Kaluuya who plays Fred Hampton, the 21-year-old Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party who, along with several other members was assassinated in cold blood by a crack FBI team.
Streaming on Prime Video.
Ranjan Das is a Mumbai based filmmaker and faculty.