Film Review: Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution


pantherBlack Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution is a documentary that explores the formation and history of The Black Panther Party, a revolutionary African American political organization started in 1966. We are shown an overview of the party’s formation, ideals and actions through a series of news footage, period interviews and modern interviews with members and contemporaries alike. The documentary covers much of the party’s good side focusing on their fight for civil rights, the many community programs they operated, and most interestingly, of their legal problems with the FBI who were actively attempting to undermine them at every turn.

Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution is a fascinating documentary about an intriguing political organization and is filled with numerous interesting stories. At times, however, it feels like its not giving us the whole story. I in no way mean to imply that the film misrepresents itself or gives false information as The Black Panthers were indeed a target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Programs) operations, many of which were illegal forms of surveillance and attempts to discredit members of the party, and the FBI’s actions certainly lead to the murder of Fred Hampton by the Chicago Police Department. But it doesn’t seem fair to the audience that the documentary never mentions the darker side of The Black Panther Party, such as the massive embezzlement of donations along with the torture and even the admitted murder of one member thought to be an informant. What we are left with may be an incomplete version of the story, but it is still an important story and much of The Black Panthers’ good side still resonates in these times. We are still striving for some of the basic ideals that The Black Panthers were fighting for and we need to be reminded of that.

I am going to recommend that anyone interested in this topic, in political activism, or in the social climate of the late ’60s / early ’70s check out Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution because overall it is a well-made documentary, chock full of interesting information and stories. Just follow it up with a little reading about the party so you can get the full story.

Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution opens Friday, September 18, at The Cable Car Cinema.

Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution (2015); Director: Stanley Nelson

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