The important and timely doc The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution tells the story of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party that began in 1966 before splitting up because of internal conflicts in the 1970s. Director Stanley Nelson finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience while provoking them on an intellectual and emotional level. You'll understand why they were founded and what makes them so significant. There's more to them than meets the eye, especially of you're simple-minded and see them as a terrorist organization like the government labeled them as. A mix of talking-head interviews with former Black Panther members, i.e.Kathleen Cleaver, along with a rich amount of archival footage provides some variety; if it were just talking heads, it wouldn't be as accessible to the masses because it would've been too dry. The Black Panthers doesn't shy away from shedding light on the murder of Fred Hampton who was killed by a death squad authorized by the U.S. government. That section of the doc is the most harrowing and even timely---Hampton was killed as he was surrendering. Nelson trusts your intelligence as an audience member because he avoid connecting that incident to any of the recent incidents that might sound similar. COINTELPRO, the U.S. government's counter-intelligence program that infiltrated the Black Panther Party in an attempt to "neutralize" them (which could include killing them), is still around today. The fact that some Black Panther members are still in jail today will probably make you feel outraged. The Black Panthers covers a lot of ground in just under 2 hours, but it presents the facts in a way that's lively, captivating and easy-to-follow even without a narrator. PBS Distribution opens it at Film Forum.
A Walk in the Woods