Yesterday Viv and I went and saw Judas and the Black Messiah, at long last. It’s about the Black Panthers’ Fred Hampton and the FBI’s COINTELPRO(external link), and was pretty good (Viv liked it even more than me).

I think I’d’ve liked more focus on Hampton and the other genuine Black Panthers and less on the rat (William O’Neal), but it still did well showing Hampton’s vision for anti-capitalist solidarity across all oppressed peoples, and the important programs the Panthers ran like breakfast programs and medical clinics. I also appreciated how there was a real palpable wartime feeling in the movie; as the film went on all the Panthers scenes grew heavy with this sense that the enemy was moving in on them and squeezing, and we knew from the FBI’s scenes that this had very little to do with “law and order” and everything to do with crushing enemies of the state. If you’re interested in this topic, Jacobin published a good review(external link) in February that went into it.

On a different note, I do kind of wish the cinema had put up subtitles; as an Australian I found a lot of the AAVE in the early part of the movie very difficult to follow. Now obviously African-American English is a dialect continuum(external link) and I didn’t struggle with all the dialogue, just the scenes where it was very different from the English varieties I’m familiar with (and also the audio quality in the cinema might have made it harder too, idk). I feel like this could be a contentious request to some people, but to be clear, I’m not saying “they should have had subtitles translating AAVE to Standard English”, but “they should have had subtitles transcribing word-for-word what they said”. In fact TBH this is a thing cinemas should do anyway for people who are hard-of-hearing. But yeah, I would’ve found them helpful for the movie’s first third or so.

Overall: if you are into radical history or US history this is a good film to see. Suitably dramatic and at no point did it do the Left dirty or try to create any bullshit false equivalencies. Would recommend.