The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution


Documentary /

IMDb Rating 7.3


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9/8/2018 8:13:12 PM

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113 min
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113 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Red-Barracuda 5

This is the story of the revolutionary group, The Black Panthers. Formed in the late 60&#39;s, they were an anti-capitalist, left wing militant group formed by disenfranchised black citizens originally in Oakland, California. Their formation was a result of the continued harassment and police brutality their people suffered in American cities at that time. It was a separate incarnation from the Civil Rights movement which had been specifically about redressing the actual lack of equal rights for black people in the American southern states. The Black Panthers were formed to stand up for blacks in the more &#39;equal&#39; urban areas who were still put upon by the white authorities and who still suffered much racism. They famously had an image of openly bearing arms and their overall approach was of a more confrontational style than that preached by Martin Luther King. Just as important, their look became very chic, dressed all in black, wearing berets, leather jackets and shades, they also sported afro haircuts in an unashamed way for the first time in contemporary America. The idea was to visually show that black was beautiful in its natural form. The look certainly resonated with images of the group making the front covers of various magazines; it remains iconic to this day.<br/><br/>The film is made up by a combination of extensive archive footage from the time and current interviews with past members of the group. It tries to understand some of the motivations and ambitions of the group, while looking at some of their opponents such as the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover who seemed quite obsessed with eradicating the group. In one telling clip he even states that he doesn&#39;t consider the concept of justice as being all that important and that law and order was what he was all about. So it&#39;s perhaps not so surprising that this philosophy led to an infamous incident where a prominent member of the Black Panthers was murdered by the Chicago police, an event that is thought to be related to the FBI chief in some way. For some reason though, despite the very interesting subject matter and the dramatic backdrop that the late 60&#39;s / early 70&#39;s America provides, I felt something lacked from this telling of the story. It never seemed to be as dynamic as it should be and while I learned a few things, it never felt as engaging as it should be and so I left a bit disappointed on the whole. This is certainly an interesting subject though and it does cover quite a lot of ground but I felt it could have been more dynamically told.

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Reviewed by reelwoman 7

Because I&#39;m old as dirt, I recall reading about the murder by the Chicago Police of Black Panther Fred Hampton in his bed while he slept, clearly part of J.Edgar Hoover&#39;s national program to undermine any leadership of the Black Panther Party. I was a senior in high school, and promptly tossed aside the Beowulf paper I was writing for one on the Black Panthers. This documentary gives you the full story that overlooked in civil rights discussions: the idea of militant blacks bearing arms was too frightening, although it sure made Martin Luther King&#39;s marches seem quite suddenly acceptable. I suspect it is the frightening aspect that has kept the Black Panther story stuffed in the closet of civil rights history. <br/><br/>The documentary portrays how carefully the Panthers attended to legal rights regarding guns, how they stood witness en mass whenever police pulled over black in the neighborhood (Black Lives Matter) to ensure just treatment. Very well portrayed was the diabolical and successful program of the FBI and law enforcement to cripple the organization. Important viewing for all Americans.

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Reviewed by David Ferguson 7

Greetings again from the darkness. Black lives matter. We hear the phrase frequently these days, and director Stanley Nelson (Freedom Summer) takes us back 49 years to the beginning of the Black Panther Party, and then walks us through the rise and fall. Rather than the usual textbook approach that focuses on the famous photos of angry black men wearing leather jackets and berets while toting firearms, this is a much more comprehensive look at the complexities of the organization and its members.<br/><br/>The familiar names of the Black Panther leaders include Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown and Fred Hampton. Despite the fact that first hand interviews weren&#39;t possible with the big three – Newton and Cleaver are no longer living, and Seale declined the opportunity, there are some fabulous video clips and photographs, many of which have been rarely seen.<br/><br/>It&#39;s the interviews with former Black Panther members that provide the most insight. Their stance is that the original plan was a non-violent approach to bring attention to police brutality and the lack of equality in Black America. Many social programs were started to assist kids and the poor, but things turned more aggressive when the passive approach didn&#39;t yield the desired results. Newton studied the laws and realized open carry was permitted on public property, and that&#39;s where most of the famous photos originated.<br/><br/>The segment on J Edgar Hoover&#39;s counterintelligence plan for the FBI to do what was necessary to prevent the expansion of the Black Panthers is one of the film&#39;s best. Hoover even described them as &quot;the greatest threat to the internal security of the country&quot; (yes, this was during the Vietnam War). He was especially concerned about the rise of a &quot;messiah&quot;, and that led to what most consider the assassination of Illinois chapter leader Fred Hampton while he slept.<br/><br/>Oakland is widely accepted as the central hub of the Black Panthers, and it was surprising to learn that &quot;most&quot; members were teenagers and a majority were female. The interviews with the former members are fascinating and void of any pomp or bluster ? just matter-of-fact recollections. What really stands out is just how media savvy the leaders were. They understood how to get headlines and bring attention to the issues.<br/><br/>We also learn that Jane Fonda hosted fundraisers and meetings, and we see a clip of Marlon Brando supporting the Black Panthers. These celebrities brought legitimacy to the organization, but didn&#39;t stop the fracture that occurred when Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver began feuding over the best direction. Seeing clips of Bobby Seale running for Mayor of Oakland in 1972 certainly brought a contemporary feel, as the black voter registration drives continue to this day.<br/><br/>As one of the former members states &quot;making history&quot; was &quot;not nice and clean&quot;. We learn that more than 20 former Panthers are still in prison today, and the parallels between the mid-60&#39;s and the movement for equality today are undeniable. Director Nelson offers an informative education without preaching or romanticizing the Black Panthers.

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