The powerful trailer for the new Shaka King film Judas and the Black Messiah, released last Friday, has already garnered almost one million views on YouTube.
The film marks King’s studio feature film directorial debut and centres around Chairman Fred Hampton, the leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party in 1968, and the true story of his betrayal and assassination at the hands of the FBI. William O’Neal, a petty criminal, takes a deal to avoid jail time if he infiltrates the Black Panthers and provides the FBI with intel, but as he rises through the ranks O’Neal cannot escape the treachery of his actions.
For those of us who are aware of world news, this trailer could not have come at a more fitting time. The Black Lives Matter movement, which was sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, has shown no sign of letting up in America – protests in the city of Portland, for example, have continuously occurred for more than two months, and have involved numerous violent clashes between protesters and federal agents dispatched by President Trump. The movement has also had a wider impact around the world, with many BLM rallies taking place on a global scale.
Against this real-world backdrop, watching the trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah feels all the more potent. Apart from some dialogue between O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) and his FBI handler (Jesse Plemons), including a brief scene showing how O’Neal becomes an informant for the FBI, the rest of the trailer focuses mainly on Chairman Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya). Hampton’s words, “I am a revolutionary” recur throughout the trailer, often with the strong repetition from the crowd he is addressing, and there is a particularly impassioned speech around the one minute mark that brings to mind many of the sentiments held by BLM protestors around the world in our present day.
Kaluuya’s portrayal of Hampton already looks to be award-winning, and if Stanfield’s previous performances in Sorry to Bother You and Atlanta are anything to go by, then he will certainly elevate the role of the conflicted O’Neal. For the ensemble cast, as well as Jesse Plemons the film will also star Dominique Fishback (The Hate U Give), Ashton Sanders (The Equalizer 2, Moonlight) and Martin Sheen (The Departed, TV’s The West Wing). As for the team behind the camera, Shaka King will be joined by Ryan Coogler (who directed Black Panther, Creed, & Fruitvale Station among others) as producer, as well as his long-term writing partner Will Berson.
Judas and the Black Messiah is due for release in theatres in 2021, and if the trailer is anything to go by, this will certainly be one to watch.
Words by Yasmin Bye
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