Judas and the Black Messiah is the name of the film that aims to tell the story of Fred Hampton, the charismatic chairman of the Black Panthers’ Illinois chapter, who was killed in a 1969 Chicago police raid.
This film is directed and co-written by Shaka King (FX’s “Shrill”). Ryan Coogler, who directed Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “Creed,” is signed on as one of the film’s producers.
“Chairman Fred Hampton is somebody whose life work and the story of his assassination has been relevant since the day it happened,” Coogler said Thursday at a joint conference of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
“It only continues to be more relevant with context,” he continued.
The film stars Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out,” “Widows,” “Black Panther”) as Hampton, while LaKeith Stanfield (“Atlanta,” “Sorry to Bother You”) plays William O’Neal, the informant who gave the FBI the floor plans of Hampton’s West Side apartment in the 2300 block of West Monroe Street.
The ensemble cast includes Ashton Sanders (“Moonlight,” “Native Son”), comedian and West Side native Lil Rel Howery and Martin Sheen (“The Departed,” “The West Wing”) as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.
Distributor Warner Brothers Pictures said the movie will open sometime in 2021 and will only play in theaters.
The Chicago Police Department, in conjunction with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and the FBI, executed a Dec. 4, 1969, predawn raid at which Hampton, 21, who was instrumental in mobilizing activist groups from various racial and economic backgrounds from across the city, and fellow Panther Mark Clark, 22, were killed.
Hampton’s supporters maintained that he was murdered, though a special coroner’s jury ruled that Hampton and Clark’s deaths were “justifiable.”
The night before the raid, O’Neal, who was Hampton’s security guard and had access to the keys of the Panthers’ headquarters and safe houses, slipped a powerful sleeping drug into Hampton’s drink, then left.
Twenty-one years later, in 1990, O’Neal killed himself running across the Eisenhower Expressway, where he was struck by a car.
A trailer released Thursday (August 6) is full of rousing oratory from Hampton, beginning with a call-and-response chant of, “I am! A revolutionary!” Meanwhile, a bloodied O’Neal is seen cutting a deal with an FBI agent (Jesse Plemons).
Hampton’s legacy also will be revisited in another movie later this year. Last month, Netflix announced an Oct. 16 streaming date for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” detailing the 1969 trial of seven men charged by the federal government with conspiracy stemming from the Grant Park protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr. will play the slain Black Panther Party member.
Watch the trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah below.
Source: Evan F. Moore for the Chicago Sun-Times