A revolutionary births a revolution. A freedom fighter fights for freedom. ” You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot kill a revolution! ” “You can kill a freedom fighter but you can’t kill freedom,”
These are the famous words of Fred Hampton, a 1960s Civil rights movement activist, vice chairperson of the Black Panther in his time. It was the life and struggle led by this man that inspired the Lucas Brothers to create a film. American music journalist, writer and cultural critic, Touré hosted the creators of the film Judas and The Black Messiah, a 2021 film produced by HBO Max on his podcast, The Touré Show.
In this particular episode, Touré invites the Lucas Brothers to talk about their new production – Judas and the Black Messiah, that was filmed in 2019 and released early 2021. This particular movie, say the Lucas Brothers, was inspired by the 1960s civil rights movement activist Fred Hampton,
his spirited fight for the rights of black people in America and how a close associate of his who was part of the Black Panther Movement, which was their vehicle for change, sold him out to the FBI and the Chicago Police Department.
The Chicago Police Department soon after, assassinated Hamilton. It is a classical Judas and the Messiah story rarely talked about, of a black Messiah who is almost an unsung hero, which happened in real life, and which was soon adopted as a TV film by the Lucas Brothers.
The 2hour 6-minute-long film which has a 96% rotten tomatoes rating is a griping, moving and saddening story that depicts a passionate Hamilton leading a civil rights movement of many black activists, with vigor and passion,
how their clamor for human rights arose racial paranoia among the whites in America at the time and how the police viewed it as public disturbance hence devising ways of shutting it down.
Contributing to the realness of the film was the amazing cast led by the two main characters playing Fred and Bill O’Neal, played by Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, who in the words of the brothers themselves ” were able to handle the complexity of the role and embody the depth of the character” they portrayed.
As mentioned above, this film is inspired by the true story of Fred Hampton and its creation, by the Lucas brothers, was based on books written about him, in titles such as The Assassination of Fred Hampton by Jeffrey Haas and Black against Empire by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin.
When Touré asks about what the contribution of this film is, the Lucas brothers explain that it is about celebrating the black struggle, the good deeds of movements such as the Black Panther, the message communicated by “black Messiahs”
who essentially are the spirited human rights activists such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton in this case and many more, but more so, to highlight the story of the Judas represented by characters such as Bill O’Neal and many more who acted as FBI informants who gave up freedom fighters for meagre rewards.
Who just like the Biblical Judas, couldn’t live with themselves upon realizing what they had done. With the agenda of shining the spotlight on the character of Judas in the film, an important question arises as to how the traitors managed to balance between sincerely contributing to the cause of black emancipation and the motive of self-preservation which motivated them to become informants to the police who were the enemy of the movement.
In this film, activism and incarceration are depicted in a raw manner thus highlighting the brutality of systemic racism to the black man in America. It singles out one of the many cases in which the police in America invested in spying and assassinating black activists during the civil rights movement.
Touching as the film is, Touré expressly represents a group of viewers who would have liked to see Bill O’Neal end his life himself in a more resigned manner than he is depicted to end his life in the film, owing to the feelings that the character arouses in the audience after the great betrayal of the black Messiah.
The Lucas Brothers owe their success in producing this film to all collaborators including Shaka, Ryan Kugler and King.
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