Movie Review: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution #atozchallenge


This is my entry for “B” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Some other “B” documentaries I’ve reviewed are BabiesBallerinaBarbosa: The Man Who Made Brazil Cry, and Boredom.

Title: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Release Date:  January 23, 2015
Director: Stanley Nelson, Jr.
Production Company: Firelight Films
Summary/Review:

This straightforward but powerful film tells the story of The Black Panther Party from its establishment in 1966 until it began to disintegrate in the mid-1970s.  The film’s strength lies in the wealth of archival film and photographs, as well as created by the Black Panthers, and interviews with over 30 former Black Panthers and those associated with them (including some still hostile former police offers who fought against the Panthers).  The movie explores the popular image of the Black Panther as a gun-toting, beret-wearing man, but doesn’t neglect that much of the work of the Black Panthers was done by women and involved social programs such as free breakfasts and clinics.  It also examines the ways in which the Black Panther Party helped redefine African American identity in a positive way for many Black Americans who were never directly involved with the Panthers.  Unfortunately, the peak years of the Black Panther Party are all too brief as the FBI and police successfully infiltrate and attack the Panthers, killing or imprisoning some of the Panthers’ most promising leaders, and contributing to in-fighting among the surviving leaders.  There’s a ton more that can be learned about the Black Panther Party, but this is a good introduction.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary: As noted in the summary, this is a good introduction to a larger untold story of the Black Panthers.  Since much of history and media has told the story of the Black Panthers from a privileged white perspective, this documentary does a good job of showing that the Panthers were more than militant black men with guns, but also the hard work that mostly black women did to provide community services, and the general boost to the feeling of black pride engendered by the Black Panthers.
If You Like This You Might Also Want To …:  The film Wattstax depicts a concert in Los Angeles at the same time that the Black Panther movement was at it’s peak, and depicts the expression of black pride in the musical performances and the audience’s participation.

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming.

Rating:  ***1/2