Judas and the Black Messiah examines Black Panther Fred Hampton's betrayal by William O'Neal, Hampton's bodyguard turned FBI informant. Hampton was a rising star in the revolutionary arm of the Civil Rights movement when he was killed in a police raid at age 21.
Forensic evidence suggested that Hampton and others had been drugged by O'Neal the night before the deadly raid. According to Newsweek, O'Neal was placed in federal witness protection after his involvement with the FBI came to light. O'Neal allegedly died at age 40 by suicide in 1990.
The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield as O'Neal. Not everyone is happy with a British actor once again cast as an American civil rights icon: "But the casting of Kaluuya, a British-born actor, as an American civil rights has elicited some criticisms, a la Brits Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman and David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr." Director Shaka King dismissed these criticisms as a "diasporic way of thinking."
This story is perfect to present as a political thriller film. The press for the film has a great summary of Hampton's work and legacy:
Though his life was cut short, Fred Hampton's impact has continued to reverberate. The government saw the Black Panthers as a militant threat to the status quo and sold that lie to a frightened public in a time of growing civil unrest. But the perception of the Panthers was not reality. In inner cities across America, they were providing free breakfasts for children, legal services, medical clinics and research into sickle cell anemia, and political education. And it was Chairman Fred in Chicago, who, recognizing the power of multicultural unity for a common cause, created the Rainbow Coalition—joining forces with other oppressed peoples in the city to fight for equality and political empowerment.
Given the events of this year, this film is likely to get significant attention in this year's all-bets-are-off awards season.