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There are a lot of challenges that come with making a movie inspired by a true story. One of the biggest is dealing with the simple fact that many of those who are watching already know how the story ends. Finding ways to build dramatic tension into a narrative whose conclusion by definition isn’t a surprise demands a lot of a filmmaker.

So it is with “Judas and the Black Messiah,” the new film directed by Shaka King from a screenplay he co-wrote with Will Berson. It’s the story of the rapid rise and tragic, too-soon death of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party and one of the iconic Black cultural figures of the 1960s. Feared by the authorities and celebrated by the people, Hampton was a polarizing figure, hated by the establishment and beloved by the counterculture … and the powers that be wanted him out of the picture.

This is a story about anger, both the righteous kind and the fearful kind. It’s a look at the revolutionary attitudes of the era, writ large thanks to the oratorical and rhetorical gifts of the young Hampton, and the willingness of law enforcement to bend and even break the laws they purported to serve to get rid of him. And it’s the story of the man who sold Fred Hampton out. It is a challenging and provocative movie – one that deserves every bit of attention it is almost certainly going to receive throughout the upcoming awards season.

Published in Movies

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