Finding the Judas in Judas and the Black Messiah
The 19 sixties, Fred Hampton was chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. He was a rising leader, organizing disparate multi racial groups in Chicago. Until police shot and killed him and another Black Panther member in an early morning raid. There's a new movie about Fred Hampton out this week, it is called Judas and the Black Messiah. It's not a question of ball. It's a non violence is a question of resistance to fascism or non existence within fascism Film got rave reviews after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last week. It's the second feature from director Shaka King who, until this project came along, was on the verge of giving up making feature films altogether. MPR's Andrew Lyne bonked takes it from here. Yes, Judas and the Black Messiah is about Fred Hampton and how he led the Black Panthers in Chicago. But it's also about William O'Neill, the man who infiltrated the Black Panthers in spied on Hampton on behalf of the FBI. Shaka King told me that the Lucas Brothers who co wrote the story, sold the idea to him like this. Their pitch that they laid out was we want to make a movie about Fred Hampton and William O'Neal. That's kind of like the departed the 2006 Martin Scorsese movie Inside the World of Cointelpro, or Counterintelligence program, the 19 sixties project where the FBI infiltrated and disrupted groups like the Black Panthers, and I was like I see it. I'm done. I'm in Judas is a tight, intense movie. Yes, like the departed and other Scorsese type crime movies. It's a long way, though, from King's first feature film newly weeds from 2013. So what you got here? Newly weeds tells the story of a young couple in Brooklyn who smoke a lot of weed where Judas is loud and fast. Really? Weeds is quiet and tender. I'm done. I'm done online. Won't want Wanna hang out. We hang up. Yeah. How are we supposed to go to the Galapagos? If you mind the bag every two minutes. It hits similar beats as movies by other indie darling directors like Joe Swanberg or the Duplass Brothers. The film Independent Spirit Awards even gave King the Someone to watch award after it came out, which came with a $25,000 grant. Not bad for someone fresh out of N Y. U film school. But after that initial fanfare, I was so depressed after making newly weeds and my expectations for the release just not coming to fruition. The movie didn't get much attention outside the festival circuit from agents and distributors, largely because it was a movie with black actors who no one knew on at that time that was deemed worthless. The film's release in 2013 wasn't that long ago, but it was just before what a friend of Kings jokingly dubbed. The Black Excellence Industrial Complex. You're Selma's and Moon Lights and Black Panthers when movie studios realized they could make a lot of money by releasing films by and starring black people. Nearly weeds. Loss of momentum burnt king out on the idea of making another feature film, But he did have an idea for a short rolling around in his head. It was kind of silly kind of outrageous, sweetheart. Lips. Excuse me, miss. It's called Moon Yang's after the Italian slur for black people want heard on the streets of Brooklyn in it, King and two others play these three black guys who talk like they're in the mom movies. King has such a fondness for It was somewhat inspired by King's experience growing up in a mostly black part of Brooklyn, but going to high school in South Brooklyn, where everyone the Irish Americans, Greek Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, all talks like the Italian American kids, and those kids were Hilarious. They were profane. They were quick witted, and we were not friends put like I could appreciate their sense of humor. The movie is a concise examination of race, gender gentrification. As King's character gets into an argument with his sister over a MetroCard, you did not have a dime. Put 1000 until the white guy comes by and says hi to the sister. Hi. How you doing? How are you? You guys just don't know what both outta here. Oh, Polluted the movie is fun and poignant, and the process reminded King how much he loved making movies. That movie saved me. You saved me. I didn't see that or know that about Shaka. But I could understand, and I could see how that could happen. Charles de King, no relation to director Shocking is the CEO and founder of Macro which since its founding in 2015 has produced movies and TV shows featuring non white people, including Judas and the Black Messiah. It was before the oscarssowhite moment. Of 2015. There's a lot that's happened since then. There is much more of an openness and I think an understanding of the business opportunity there. Which brings us to King today, making a movie about an anti capitalist black radical at a very capitalist Hollywood studio without watering down the politics. The deal is to respect the authenticity. Fred Hampton Jr is the current chairman of the Black Panther Party, Cubs and son of Fred Hampton. He says he and the other Panthers had their guards up when they were approached about this film. The Panthers have long been subjected to propaganda campaigns and misrepresentations. But he says King and the rest of the cast and crew definitely navigated the crossroads between their creative goals and the Panthers. Political ones. Well enough, anyway. Revolutionaries never satisfied. You know, I wish there was more political cartoon. We could've pushed. In a certain point, However, I'll put the people's need before before my needs my wants and desires. For instance, the relationship between Fred Hampton and his partner, Deborah Johnson, was a tricky thing to get right. The poet.