EXCLUSIVE: Warner bros’ Judas and the Black Messiah may have taken place in the late 1960s, but it very well could have happened in 2021 as it shines a light on the treatment of the black community, activism and identity.
Director Shaka King co-wrote the screenplay with Will Berson and chronicles the life of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), president of the Illinois branch of the Black Panther Party, and William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield), who served as an informant for the FBI. to help silence Hampton and the Black Panther Party.
In the biographical drama, King and Berson bring this story to the fore, using the relationship between Hampton and O’Neal as a starting point. Together and separately, the narrative shows the two historical figures as they have been seen by the media and also shines a light on their personal lives.
At first, O’Neal’s struggles as an FBI informant seem mild, but as the story unfolds he sinks deeper and deeper while developing a friendship with Hampton. He is struggling with his own purpose in life and his place in this situation that is starting to take its toll on him. For Hampton, he is presented as a charismatic and progressive leader who is seen by many as aggressive, but as the film unfolds his political prowess is balanced but his relationship with his revolutionary colleague Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) . Both stories paint a picture of a revolution that still rings true today.
The film, which has already been in the AFI and National Board of Review’s Top 10, will premiere Monday at the Sundance Virtual Film Festival ahead of its February 12 debut in theaters and on HBO Max.
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