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The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 23 October 2015 (UK)
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This documentary tells the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, one of the 20th century's most alluring and controversial organizations that captivated the world's attention for nearly 50 years.

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Angela Arnold ... (voice)
Erica Ball ... (voice)
Rhon G. Flatts ... (voice)
... (voice)
Nola Nelson ... (voice)
... J. Edgar Hoover (voice)
... (voice)
Trudy Williams ... (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Blair Anderson ... Himself - Black Panther Party
Omar Barbour ... Himself - Black Panther Party
Julian Bond ... Himself - Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC]
... Himself (archive footage)
Elaine Brown ... Herself - Black Panther Party
Scot Brown ... Himself - Historian
... Himself - Firing Line (archive footage) (as William F. Buckley Jr.)
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This documentary tells the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, one of the 20th century's most alluring and controversial organizations that captivated the world's attention for nearly 50 years.

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Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

23 October 2015 (UK)  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$46,985, 18 September 2015, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$482,396, 8 November 2015
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| (archive footage)
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The vanguard is brought back with striking vividness after 50 years
10 September 2015 | by See all my reviews

When was the last time a state legislature infringed on the right guaranteeing a citizen's right to openly carrying a gun? Well, Stanley Nelson's excellent documentary The Black Panthers answers that question. Imagine then governor Ronald Reagan and the conservatives in the California legislature, won over temporarily, to the idea of gun control by the sight of the Black Panther Party marching into the statehouse in Sacramento, carrying loaded shotguns and rifle, as state law and the Constitution allowed. Challenging political order and mayhem, who were this new breed of "Negroes," dressed from head to foot in black? Why did they did they project an image of militancy and armed purpose? Today's headline grabbing evidence of police brutality and racial injustice to black people have not spawned the same response that gave birth to the BPP in response to oppression and marginalization, as #-tag Black Lives matter. Why? Nelson has recovered through use of newsreel, take, take outs from Eye on the Prize and interviews with aging ex-Panthers, to dust off 50 years of ignorance. We are transported to another galaxy of time. It was an age of war and revolution. Algeria, Cuba, Vietnam. It was also an age of turmoil that broke the back of colonial domination and smashed in the chains of vote denial in the American South, albeit through non-violence, as Ava DuVernay's striking film Selma serves as clear evidence. But what worked in the South couldn't and wouldn't in the North because voting rights were not the issue. Racial injustice and the ever-present violence and brutality of the police were. (Chester Himes' "Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones" mysteries, recreate life in urban ghettos.) The Black Panthers gives body to the logic of a society that marginalized and trivialized and isolated a third of its citizens through naked violence. And, as such, it birthed the BPP in Oakland, California in 1966. The choice of the symbol of the Black Panther is significant. In Mayan culture, the animal, a fierce fighter, is a totem of aggressiveness and power. It does roar. It won't strike unless provoked. The outbreak of the Panthers on the scene was merely an acceleration of a process of political awakening that had been building for some time at home and abroad. Stokley Carmichael had called for Black Power in the heart of Mississippi. And James Baldwin's 1963 The Fire Next Time, according to the Negro Spiritual, promised a conflagration as the wide range of injustices morphed into a call for political action. Furthermore, the BPP saw itself in the vanguard of sweeping change. To exploit the fever of heated times, it harnessed revolutionary gestures and emotions. So, six young men began organizing activists to confront the local police with guns. They spurned the appeal of Nation of Islam that preached self-segregation. They also rejected the belief that society could be made better by the change of the human heart. The zeitgeist of revolution had taken hold. If the US was fighting for "democracy and freedom and liberation from Communism" in Vietnam, the BPP figured that they were going to protect and fight for the interests of their own people that Washington sorely neglected. So, they took up the gun; they didn't confront the police but stayed at a respectful distance, to see that blacks weren't abused. Like their namesake, they remained vigilant unless otherwise provoked. The adoption of the powerful image of a gun had a revolutionary source: after all Mao did affirm "power grows out of the barrel of a gun?" The Party had an all-embracing slogan Power to the People. It had an ideology--and a 10-point program What We Want Now! It had a newspaper; it had revolutionary art; it had a "military force," and above all, it had what Carlyle called: beginners, men who had qualities to serve its ideas and ideals in the persons of Bobby Seale, Hotspur-like Huey P. Newton, and Eldridge Cleaver. Government repression and internal backstabbing over who upheld the purity of the BPP helped destroy the party is this gripping film.


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