Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah” follows the true story of Bill O’Neal as he infiltrates the Black Panther Party for the FBI. O’Neal made a deal with FBI agent Roy Mitchell to infiltrate the party in exchange for Mitchell dropping the charges for his crimes. After spending time under the leadership of Chairman Fred Hampton, O’Neal starts to care deeply about the revolution for civil rights.
“My favorite character was Bill O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) because he played a heartbreaking performance of someone who began to feel for the movement and was just pinned into a bad situation that betrayed the movement and his friends,” Cooper Ford (12) said.
This biographical film was released in theaters on Feb. 12, 2021, and was featured on HBO Max until March 14, 2021. King directed the heroic story of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and the injustice that they faced. The Panthers fought for the civil rights they deserved after experiencing wrongful convictions, deaths of members and police brutality.
“[Judas and the Black Messiah] was inspiring and innovative,” Amyah Wright (10) said. “It demonstrated very well how the Black activists of that time, the Black Panthers, had to fight their way through adversity, even [from] people of their own color.”
As the film follows the Panthers, Hampton gains the support of other revolutionary groups in Chicago. The groups that joined the revolution were the Young Lords and the Young Patriots. Hampton’s ability to provide a moving speech allowed him to gain the trust of his worst enemies. All three groups came together to form the Rainbow Coalition in 1969, which worked against the police force and FBI to protect their comrades and other citizens, despite the color of their skin.
“A huge point in the film is the welcoming back scene of Chairman Fred,” Ford said. “That scene was a huge and widespread scene that really showed all the people he had an impact on and his vision for the community.”
After a two to five-year stint, the Chairman was welcomed back by the entire Rainbow Coalition. This scene further depicts Hampton’s effect on others and his ability to bring them together to fight the common enemy.
King depicts the story of the Panthers in a raw and unfiltered manner including racial slurs, scenes of abuse and vulgar language. Though at times hard to watch, it is pertinent for the viewers to see the true nature of the justice system and the Chicago police department at that time. The film paints a clearer picture of just how important it was for the Black Panther movement to form.
“I would recommend [Judas and the Black Messiah] to anyone who wants to be educated about their own culture, or even the culture of others,” Wright said. “Everyone has room to become knowledgeable about or become more knowledgeable about a topic, especially when it comes to race.”