“Judas and the Black Messiah” is an unapologetic depiction of Black history that marks a new future for Black stories in mainstream media.
Directed by Shaka King, the film tells the true story of a Black man named Bill O’Neal who, while working for the FBI, infiltrated the Black Panthers at the height of their presence. The film also intertwines his story with the high-profile chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Panthers, Fred Hampton, leading up to Hampton’s assassination by the FBI in 1969.
The story of the Black Panthers is one that has been left largely untold in mainstream media due to negative perceptions of the organization. They are often misunderstood and commonly portrayed as a violent and radical group.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” shows the Black Panthers in a different light. As shown in the film, the Panthers were heavily involved in their communities and were known for creating programs for Black youth and working on many projects to support their neighborhoods.
The film was released after a summer of widespread support for the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that was seen as also “extremist” for many years. Now, as this movement continues to gain momentum, stories like “Judas and the Black Messiah” have space to be told.
For years, most mainstream movies about Black issues catered heavily to white audiences with white savior tropes and feel-good endings. “Judas and the Black Messiah” stands out as a film centered around Black voices, with the only white involvement being that of the antagonized FBI.
With a Golden Globe award under its belt, the film is stirring up major Oscar buzz. Highly rated by critics and a big player this award season, the success of “Judas and the Black Messiah” goes to show that stories centering Black characters don’t need a white protagonist to be well received, opening the door for even more Black stories to be told.