blackfilm.com’s Sundance 2021 Favorites: “Judas and the Black Messiah”

blackfilm.com’s Sundance 2021 Favorites: “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Watch blackfilm.com’s Koku Tona’s video review of the film!

“Judas and the Black Messiah” chronicles the events leading to the assassination of Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), led by the FBI’s utilization of an inside operative William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield).

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.
Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

Daniel Kaluuya is incredible in his portrayal as Hampton capturing both his cadence and accent. In the post-screening Sundance Q&A he shared how he prepared for the role. “I didn’t want to approach him first off. I wanted to approach the mindset, the mentality, and the ideas and philosophies and concepts that they were sharing and exchanging around that time.” He credits director Shaka King for providing him with Black Panther reading materials. “In order to be a fully fledge Panther, you need six weeks of political education. So I read the majority of the books on the reading list.”

LaKeith Stanfield portrays the Judas who is William O’Neal, a petty thief who agreed to become an FBI informant in order to evade felony charges. Stanfield’s portrayal of William O’Neal captures the sheer wickedness of self-preservation by any means, as well as the internal conflict of knowing you’ve gone bad at the detriment of others.

Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.
Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemons appear in Judas and the Black Messiah by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

There are notable performances from Dominique Fishback, who portrays Fred Hampton’s partner Deborah Johnson, and Jesse Plemons as FBI agent Roy Mitchell who arranged for Fred Hampton’s assassination.

Fred Hampton was 21 years old when he was murdered. With so much power and influence in such a short lifetime, it’s impossible not to wonder what he could’ve accomplished–particularly in our current environment.

Expect Oscar buzz, with Stanfield and Kaluuya as shoo-ins for the nomination.

Judas and the Black Messiah will premiere on HBO Max February 12th, and in select theaters depending on your location due to COVID safety measures.

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