It’s not like this. If O’Neill’s betrayal sets in motion, Hampton’s charisma is ballast, but Kaluya presents him as something more than an ordinary saint or hero. During Great migrationHampton’s parents moved to Chicago from Louisiana, and Caluia, who is British, discovers southern distinctions in her voice and manner – an undertaking of humor and harmony, an appreciation of the expressive possibilities of the language.
Debonna Johnson (Dominic Fischbach), a fellow activist who becomes Hampton’s lover, calls her a poet, and her gift for oratory is very much proof. It is all too easy, however, that history is treated as a series of speeches: the films are loved by nothing so much as a great man in front of a crowd. The film is, admirably, a deeper understanding of politics and a more sophisticated argument for Hampton’s importance. To borrow a word from Antonio Gramsci, He is an organic intellectual, a thinker as well as a strategist and organizer.
No more, interestingly enough, a black nationalist. In his courtship, Johnson scolds him for rejecting political symbolism and cultural expression. He is not interested in renaming Africa or schools and streets after black heroes. He is a Marxist-Leninist, with a carefree materialist understanding of the American system. If he is trapped in a burning building, he says, “My culture is water and escape.”
He tries to make alliances with those who can share that culture, who are searching for the leaders of Blacks and Puerto Rican street gangs, and a group of poor whites who meet in front of the Confederate flag . At the same time, tensions between the Panthers and Chicago police erupted into violence, with both sides deadly. The FBI’s counterclaim program raises suspicion within the Panthers, and some of Hampton’s friends urge him to flee to Cuba or Algeria. O’Neill realizes that he is not the only informer in the group, and the bureau and movement are increasing their demands on their time and commitment.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” represents a disciplined, shameless attempt to bring clarity to an unstable, moment to overcome sentimentality and revisionism, often clouding films about the politics of the 60s and race is. It is fascinating in itself, and even when seen alongside other recent films.
I have in mind, for starters, Sam Pollard’s documentary “MLK / FBI,” About Hoover’s first obsession with Revere. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; Regina King’s “One Night in Miami,” About Malcolm X’s meeting with Calcius Clay, Jim Brown and Sam Cook; And some chapters of Steve McQueen’s “Small X” cycle, about black politics in Britain in the ’70s and’ 80s. These films do not embody a comprehensive picture of the past, but together they make a strong case for the vitality of historical filmmaking, while in another era of political crisis. They provide diversion and food for thought. Water and escape, you might say.
Judah and the Black Messiah
Rated r. Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes. In theaters and on Hbo max. Please consult guidelines Outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching the film inside theaters.