The American biopic Judas and the Black Messiah is a lively political thriller filmed in the genre of biographical drama. After showing in early 2021 at the Sundance Film Festival, Shaq King’s project has become available to a wide audience in full format and on the HBO Max streaming service.
The plot of Judas and the Black Messiah is based on real events from the life of American society in the early 1970s. In the context of the economic crisis, against the backdrop of the conflict in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal with the impeachment of President Nixon, the protest movement for the rights of blacks is gaining momentum in the country. The scriptwriter, director and producer of the film, Shaq King, artistically presents the viewer with historical facts about the last years of the life of Fred Hampton, one of the leaders of the Black Panthers public organization.
In an uncompromising attempt to fight for equality, the young charismatic politician manages to unite Latin American radicals, criminal African Americans and Chicago rednecks. And this is not only propaganda of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism in educational institutions, quoting Mao and Che at meetings, addressing each other as “comrade”. In addition to their belief in a working-class international, the Panthers are driven by a punk desire to scare the American establishment. The organization conducts a lot of social work, collects money for free breakfasts for low-income schoolchildren, establishes its own law and order in the area. In the chairman of the Illinois branch of the radical Panther Party, Fred Hampton, the secret services see the “black messiah.”
The Chicago FBI are tasked with eliminating the troublemaker who threatens traditional American values by any means necessary. After all, as the well-known saying goes, in the United States “everything that the average American does not like is communism,” and it must be fought mercilessly. Special agent Roy Mitchell recruits a black criminal, small-time swindler William O’Neill and introduces him into the local headquarters of the Black Panthers. Bill (that’s the name of the FBI informant) becomes part of a plan to destroy the cell from the inside. He is driven by the fear of going to jail for his past deeds and the desire for his own well-being: the soul is warmed by the decent reward promised after completing the task. Without thinking about the serious consequences of his actions, O’Neal becomes an active assistant in organizing the physical elimination of Hampton and his associates.
The title Judas and the Black Messiah is a reference to a textbook parable about the belated repentance of a man who has committed a vile and vile act. The biblical parallels are built on the fact that Bill develops sympathy for Fred and the black rights activists. Judas is reconsidering his views on life, now he clearly understands the consequences of betraying the interests of his people. But the Stockholm Syndrome visits the undercover operative too late, when he can no longer change anything.
Reference to the film’s historical context
As a result of a successful special operation on December 4, 1969, Fred Hampton and several party comrades were killed in cold blood on the spot. After the funeral of the charismatic politician, which was attended by more than 5,000 people, other black rights activists in America made him an icon of their movement. The seven survivors of the Black Panthers’ shootout with police were put on trial, but the charges against them were dropped. Together with relatives of their dead comrades, they filed a lawsuit against the special services and the administration of Chicago. After a decade of litigation, each received monetary compensation. The total amount was 1.85 million USD, which at that time was the largest amount of payments for a civil claim. FBI informant Bill O’Neill remained silent for many years about his involvement in the Chicago events of the late 1960s. On the evening of 01/15/1990, when his only interview recorded the day before was broadcast on US television, O’Neill committed suicide.
Explaining the meaning of the film “Judas and the Black Messiah”, it should be noted that Shaka King’s project is a visionary and expressive “black” movie on the topical and topical topic of institutional racism in the United States. The final credits of the picture are accompanied by the song What It Looks Like. Jay-Z’s voice speaks to the viewer with a reminder of what happens to particularly vocal and objectionable politicians who do more than expected of them.