Judas and The Black Messiah Cast Stress The Importance of Amplifying Black Voices In New Film

Raven Harper|Campus Editor

photo credit: Glen Wilson

As we honor and remember Black stories and voices of the past this month, we must acknowledge the Black filmmakers and storytellers of today who allow us to relive these moments of history by bringing them to life on screen. 

This month, Shaka King, director of the new, highly-anticipated Warner Bros film, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” shares the untold story of the Illinois Black Panther Party leader, Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), who was betrayed by FBI informant, William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) and assassinated at 21, by Chicago Police.

In an exclusive Warner Bros. screening on Feb.4, Hampton University students were given the opportunity to view the film before its release on Feb.12 in theaters. 

During a virtual summit, hosted by Multimedia Journalist, Gia Peppers, the cast, as well as those responsible for bringing the film together, were able to provide insight and a behind the scenes look into the making of “Judas and the Black Messiah.” 

Releasing at such an appropriate time for our country, JATBM director, King, hopes the film sparks something in the eyes of viewers, and allows them to see who the Black Panther Party really was. 

“I think it is an opportunity to explore this country’s past and present of crushing voices of descent,” King shared. “To quail efforts by citizens to change, that actually leads to these ideals that America puts forth of life, liberty and happiness, which ultimately that’s really all the Black Panthers were.”

To delve deeper into Fred Hampton’s legacy, moderator Baratunde Thurston, sat down with Chairman Fred Hampton Jr.and Daniel Kaluuya, to share what all it took behind the scenes to bring Hampton’s life to screen.

Being no stranger to large roles playing in films such as; “Get Out,” “Black Panther” and “Queen & Slim,” Kaluuya felt nothing but humbled and honored to introduce the world to the life of Fred Hampton, after learning more about his contributions and love for people.

“He had an internal revolution. He was free within his own mind, soul, and spirit and he wanted to give people the tools to be free within themselves-which was with education, food, legal aid, and all these tools they put in place to promote internal liberation as well as unity,” Kaluuya described.

While the cast did an outstanding job bringing this film to life, Kaluuya shared that it wouldn’t have been such a success without collaboration with the Hampton family during the making of the film. 

“Meeting the family was necessary. A story like this and the perspective we wanted to tell it through, having the family there to be a part of the process was imperative to everyone,” Kaluuya explained.

Joining in the conversation about his father’s legacy, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., leader of the Black Panther Party Cubs, shared that he and his family have turned down a lot of book and movie deals due to ill intentions and lack of respect. The difference with this film was the regard, historical correctness and dedication from everyone working on the film, from writers to talent. 

Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback, who played Deborah Johnson (Hampton’s girlfriend), spent a lot of time at Hampton’s former home in preparation for their roles.

“A lot of people see revolutionaries as just a leather jacket and beret, but there’s an underbelly of what a revolutionary is,” Hampton Jr. stated. “These are things you can’t read in books. These are things you got to smell and feel, and they came.”

Continuing the conversation about the work of the Black Panther Party Cubs and what this film changes for them, Hampton Jr. shared that JATBM, “helps open the door, but is not the end-all, be-all,” he said.

In his closing remarks, Kaluuya expressed his main takeaway from his role, as well as the entire film, was the theme of unity.

“It taught me how important it is to be a part of the community. To be present, share ideas, and talk,” he said.

“Judas and the Black Messiah,” directed by Shaka King and co-produced by Ryan Coogler, is set to release in theaters on Feb.12, as well as HBO Max for 31 days. 

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