One of the better films I saw at this year's Sundance Film Festival was Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a doc about the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The doc doesn't break any new ground as filmmaking, but it has a wealth of rarely seen footage and photographs that bring the Black Panther movement to life. On top of that it is filled with the recollections of former Panthers, whose taste for justice has not been tempered by the past few decades. If anything it has gotten sharper; watching the film in January it was clear that Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution was a historical document that was very much about this immediate moment in time. Deja vu all over again, as they say.
The film opens in September before going to PBS. I know this will infuriate the publicists, but if you're not living in one of the few cities that will get this movie on the big screen you'll be okay watching it at home. The great story and incredible footage will play just as well there. But you must see it - this is a movie that tells the story of a rarely understood social justice movement with an eye for honesty, whether that makes the Black Panthers look good or bad. In the end I believe the Black Panthers come across as they were - revolutionary heroes - but at the same time Vanguard of the Revolution does not shy away from the negative, including the tragedy of Huey P Newton's descent into madness.