How much suffering should a person endure before he can defend himself? When is the point where he has to face his oppressors? The film “Judas and the Black Messiah” gives uncomfortable answers to this.
The American Fred Hampton was a civil rights activist, Black Panther activist and father-to-be when he was shot dead in his sleep on December 4, 1969. Executed by a state apparatus that wanted the young man to be a threat to the social order. Fred Hampton was African American and was 21 on the night he was murdered. The film “Judas and the Black Messiah” – now available for streaming on Sky – tells his story. A story about structural racism, betrayal and despair, but also about courage, willingness to make sacrifices and hope.
Hampton did not want to accept living in oppression and exclusion. Where the US authorities tried to prevent citizens from struggling for freedom with violence and reprisals, Hampton confronted them with a weapon that was, in the long run, more powerful than pistol balls and punches: words.
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Hampton was a gifted speaker who knew how to inspire people and bring them to the table who actually didn’t want anything to do with each other. In 1968 the activist joined the Black Panther movement and thus moved into the field of vision of the FBI. Under the direction of the then director J. Edgar Hoover, the federal agency smuggled the informant William O’Neal into the local branch of the Panthers in Chicago and thus sealed Fred Hampton’s fate.
A reminder for the present
Director Shaka King and his two main actors – Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield as William O’Neal – created a long overdue cinematic memorial with “Judas and the Black Messiah”. The film not only tells the story of the revolutionary, but also that of the informant who was ultimately instrumental in the murder. The filmmakers attach great importance to the authenticity of a US era that Hampton himself described as a “war”.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” tells of people who get caught up in a machinery that feeds on fear, anger, ignorance and hatred. A conflict in which there are only losers. But the film is also a reminder of the present, because a good and desirable future for everyone can only be created together, regardless of what ethnicity, religion or way of life one belongs to.
In addition to the detailed criticism of “Judas and the Black Messiah”, Ronny Rüsch and Axel Max also speak in the new podcast episode of “Oscars & Raspberries” about the documentary “These were our cinema years”, about two film jewels by Clint Eastwood and about why the new flick by Jean-Claude Van Damme falls short of expectations.
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