*One of the most powerful documentaries you should experience this year is Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” which explores the formation and impact of the Black Panther Party.
The doc is a visually arresting piece of history that weaves rare but riveting archival footage that includes accounts from people who experienced the movement, including former Black Panthers and loyalists, white supporters, police officials, FBI informants and journalists.
“The Black Panthers” recounts the movement’s energizing history which birthed a new counterculture in America. White youth became activists – championing alongside black revolutionaries who demanded equal rights and an end to police brutality.
Influencers, celebrities such as John Lennon and Jane Fonda and high-powered attorneys lent their names, voice and financial support to the movement, which aided in the Panther’s international push to raise awareness.
Founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale drafted a Ten-Point Program which was a set of guidelines that described what the movement wanted from the United States government, which included; African history taught to black children in schools and proper housing fit for a human being. In the late 60’s, the Panther’s focus shifted to social programs. They instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, and set-up community health clinics.
The doc reveals in frustrating details how, despite their non-violent core mission, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover viewed the party as the greatest threat to the country, (primarily because he didn’t want blacks to be a unified, intelligent collective), and he supervised the devious COINTELPRO program which infiltrated, discredited and used any means necessary to eradicate the Panthers. The Panther’s reaction to government intrusion and surveillance was oftentimes handled with an eye for an eye approach.
After Huey was released from prison in 1970, he and Cleaver’s views on the future of the Black Panther Party shifted drastically, with Huey declaring his former colleague an enemy. The doc provides an enlightening account about what caused the split in the Black Panther Party, as well as Huey’s downward spiral into drugs, gangs and violence which ultimately led to his death.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” is currently playing in select theaters in New York and arrives at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles September 25, where Stanley Nelson is scheduled to host a post-screening discussion. Click here for details and tickets.