“Judas and the Black Messiah” is based on the true story of Bill O’Neal, an FBI informant investigating Chairman Fred Hampton and the Illinois Black Panther Party. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is nominated for Best Picture, Daniel Kaluuya for Best Supporting Actor, Lakeith Stanfield also for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.
I was incredibly excited to see the story of Chairman Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party play out on screen. The absolute best parts of this film are Kaluuya and Stanfield. Kaluuya gives a powerful and charismatic portrayal of Hampton, and the film shows a side of him that the media tends to overlook in discussions of Black Power movements. Stanfield is also incredible; O’Neal is constantly at war with himself as a Black FBI informant for the Black Panthers, and every facet of his performance reflects that. A performance that I think has been criminally overlooked in this year’s nominations was Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s girlfriend. Her performance was really incredible and I am excited to see her more in the future. I am nervous because both Kaluuya and Stanfield are nominated in the same category, which could cause votes to be split and neither will win, but I’m rooting for both anyway. I was truly surprised to see this show up in the Best Picture category this year, but excited to see a story like this being congratulated in some way by the academy – Allie Remhof
“Judas and the Black Messiah,” tells an untold story of history that took away a man who could have gone down in history with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was a figure who could have changed the world if given more time. The film tells the story of brotherhood and racism in the late 1960s, focusing on Hampton and his security officer Bill O’Neal, played by Lakeith Stanfield. However, as the audience knows, O’Neal is an FBI informant who only joined the party to try to take it down. As he gets to know the chairman throughout the film, the audience can see him realize that he wants what the Black Panthers want. Stanfield does an incredible job playing someone who has split loyalties and the guilt that comes to him, especially in the last scene of the movie. He is tasked by the FBI agent in charge of him to drug Hampton’s drink so that they can easily shoot him without a fight. It is hard to explain the feeling the audience gets watching O’Neal give him the drugged drink. O’Neal stands over the chairman shaking and crying, asking him if he wants a refill on his drink. Stanfield’s performance in that scene alone is Oscar-worthy, and the actor even said that he felt sick and vomited while filming the dread-ridden scene. While on the other hand, Kaluuya’s performance of Fred Hampton was empowering and the audience could see why the FBI was so afraid of the figure. Kaluuya stated in an interview that it felt like Hampton’s spirit took over his body while playing him because he barely remembered shooting the scenes in the film. Both of these actors deserved nominations, although it was disheartening to see that they were both nominated for supporting roles, despite them being co-leads. It seemed they were both happy to get recognition at all with recent criticisms of the Oscars lacking BIPOC voices. Stanfield even said “The first time an actor with a face tattoo was nominated lmaooo” in a now-deleted Instagram post. It seems that they are both likely to win with Kaluuya winning the Golden Globe for his role in the movie. “Judas and the Black Messiah” shows the emotional journey of a traitor and the tragedy of a life cut short with the poise of an Oscar-worthy movie. – Sarah Timin