‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is excellent but exhausting


Flickr/Chicago Urban League Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library

The real Fred Hampton gives a speech. He was depicted by Daniel Kaluuya in “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

Jackson Collins, Director of Visuals

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is an excellent and informative movie, but audiences are getting tired of watching Black struggle movies.
Despite Black History Month having come to a close, it’s still important to learn about Black stories.
Premiering at Sundance Film Festival, “Judas and the Black Messiah” stars some phenomenal actors, including Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield and Jesse Plemmons.
The film follows William O’Neil, a criminal turned FBI informant, as he gathers intel on Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party.
The Black Panthers were a political organization founded in Oakland, California who focused on protecting Black people through political and local action.
Having good actors can make or break a film, and the cast does an outstanding job. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is one of those movies where you forget the actors are actually acting and aren’t the people themselves. Plemmons and Stanfield are amazing, which is to be expected, seeing as they’re used to playing intense and serious characters.
Kaluuya’s performance was another stand-out, earning him the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
There has been a surplus of criticism on the age difference between Kaluuya, who’s 32 years old, and his 21-year-old character. However, it wasn’t distracting while watching because of how talented of an actor he is.
Not only did the actors go above and beyond, but the writing and direction is amazing as well. Shaka King’s style of direction is simple and clean and does a fantastic job honoring this untold story.
The Black Panther Party has been criminally underrepresented in the media, so it’s great to see it getting coverage in films like this and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” which came out last year.
It was also refreshing to see a period piece depicted so faithfully, as many tend to over-dramatize the topic at hand.
The only serious issue with the story itself is that Fred Hampton’s legacy is being shared through the lens of an FBI informant. It would’ve been far more impactful to see the struggles of the Black Panther party from their own perspective, instead of from an outsider. Plus, I was far less invested in the FBI scenes than I was in the scenes about the Black Panthers.
All of that being said, the media is oversaturated with movies about Black pain and suffering. This movie is in the same league as “When They See Us” or “If Beale Street Could Talk.” They’re extremely well done, but exhausting to watch, especially when you have to watch the same struggles portrayed over and over again.
As a Black viewer, seeing the realistic, well-produced murders in “Judas and the Black Messiah” felt deeply personal.
Movies can be a great escape from real-life tragedies, which Black people experience all too often. It hurts turning on movies just to see the exact same thing.
Although slavery-centered movies are slowly but surely fizzling out of the mainstream, it would be nice to see more lighthearted options. While this is an important story that needs to be told, Hollywood needs to start green-lighting films with Black leads that feature joy and light rather than death and heartbreak. I want action movies, coming of age films or even cheesy rom-coms.
The Black experience is multi-faceted; there is so much more to us than our tragic deaths, which Hollywood has had no trouble exploiting.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” is a brilliant and informative film, but its audience is growing tired of Hollywood milking Black turmoil.