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Why You Have To Watch Judas and the Black Messiah

Thank you to WarnerMedia for partnering with HCUW to give early streaming access for the film!

Judas and the Black Messiah drops us into the world of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s. In a world of racial unrest, we see the fight for the liberation of a race desperate for revolution through the eyes of Hampton. Meanwhile, William O’Neil (LaKeith Stanfield) has been put in a difficult situation; serve jail time, or become an FBI informant that betrays his own people. The FBI has claimed the Black Panthers to be a terrorist group, one and the same as the Klan, who are hoping to “sow hatred and inspire terror”. Through our following of Hampton, we see that in reality, he works tirelessly and passionately to unite the oppressed groups of Chicago, regardless of color, to create a coalition of people to serve and protect. The goal is uniting as one to fight the war on racial inequality that is still ongoing and prevalent in American society today. 

Crowd of protesters holding signs
Photo by Life Matters from Pexels

Throughout this film and racial history, there are two sides of war; the powerful and the powerless. Through the embodiment of Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers within this movie, we see that the power flows through the people, and that will forever hold true. There is a quote within this film that I found to be prevalent within the revolutionary era of the Black Panthers; speaking to racial issues then, and now through the Black Lives Matter Movement. Hampton states as follows,

“You can murder a liberator, but you can’t murder a liberation. You can murder a revolutionary, but you can’t murder a revolution”.

The story told in this film is important, as it bridges the gap within our history books regarding black history. It tells of the true love and turmoil within these activists’ lives that is often disregarded in the retelling of the black power movements of the 1960s.  In an interview with NPR, Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Fred Hampton in the film, discusses why he was so drawn to embody and tell the story of chairman Fred Hampton;

“I realized that there’s no – there’s a lot of information about how he died, how he was murdered, not a lot of information how – about how incredibly and remarkably he lived”.

We must push farther past the evident. We can no longer see these individuals for how they were lost and or murdered. We must see them for the vivid, passionate, and fearing individuals that they are and were.

Judas and the Black Messiah displays beautiful cinematography that catches the life and color of the brightest and darkest moments of our history, using a soundtrack that causes the hair on the back of your neck to rise while your heart races with anticipation. You are sucked into the world of Fred Hampton, embodied brilliantly by Daniel Kaluuya, causing a sense of belonging in this world of turmoil and injustice. You develop a sense of sympathy from the numerous and immense moments of shock and anger. For all of these reasons, you should watch Judas and the Black Messiah, but for the most evident reason, you should watch this film for the people. 

Black Lives Matter march holding banners and signs.
Photo by Clay Banks from Unsplash

Now streaming on HBO MAX and in select theatres.

Mara Balfour

Washington '23

Mara Balfour is a sophomore student at the University of Washington currently majoring in Cinema and Media Studies. Along with writing for HerCampus, she is the creative director of Mar Bee Designs, as well as a concert photographer. She hopes to tell stories through films and images that are just as beautiful as they are impactful.
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