Black history month blockbuster “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Director Shaka King releases a new dramatization about the assisination of Fred Hampton.

Alisa Prater, Staff Writer

On December 4th, 1969, a revolutionary scientist was hunted and assassinated by the FBI within the walls of his Chicago loft. 50 years later, director, Shaka King, depicts a story of betrayal, honor, and legacy in the new live-action drama “Judas and the Black Messiah.” 

The 126-minute biographical spectacle conveys the time in which William O’Neal, played by Lakeith Stanfield, is sent to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party led by chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). This film has been made available to you on HBO Max and in theaters. The cast of the film includes Golden Globe winner Kaluuya, AAFCA winner Stanfield and other impressive young black actors like Dominique Fishback and Algee Smith. As of week two after its February release, Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah”  has made $4.1 Million.

Petty criminal William O’Neal finds himself in federal custody after being arrested for stealing a car. In order to avoid prison time, he is offered a position of police informant by FBI Agent Roy Mitchel (Jesse Plemons)  and given an assignment. O’Neal is to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers and befriend the chairman, Fred Hampton. Hampton struggles with balancing his relationship with his wife, Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback), and being a revolutionary leader and influential activist during the Black Panther Party Movement. 

Deep undercover, O’Neal is faced with moral dilemmas and ethical disputes as the true nature of the panthers are revealed. He realizes how purposeful the fight behind the revolution is to the future of African Americans in the United States. Told through the general perspective of O’Neal, a suspenseful, dramatization of the last days of Hampton is put into perspective the similarity in today’s society. 

The film impressively addresses the FBI case known as COINTELPRO. The infamous case was named by FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover who promoted his time to prevent the next “black messiah.” The systematic oppression and contracted assassinations were efforts to neutralize the threat Hoover identified in the Black Panther Party Movement. The movie further explains the domestic war through scenes that include the shootout that killed Hampton. King strays from the watered-down dialogues and beautifully displays scenes of teachings and preachings that were held by the Black Panthers during the time period in which the movie takes place. 

The movie title itself exemplifies the religious binds the Black Panther Party was known to hold. The story of Judas is a biblical story of the betrayal of Jesus by his trusted disciple. This results in the crucifixion of the messiah. In “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the traitor is identified before Hampton’s inevitable death, which is canny to the circumstances of Jesus’ last supper where he puts the existence of a traitor to the rest of his disciples but fails to identify who plays this role. 

Ultimately, this film was created for the purpose of education. Educating  future generations about the hardships, injustice, and blatant racism in the 1960s helps prevent a societal relapse. “Judas and the Black Messiah” was released in the middle of Black History Month and not only provides the audience with a mere history lesson but submerges the audience in a series of unbelievable historical moments, the realism that the untimely fate of many Black leaders was only caused by their shared want for a change.