By Gregory Crofton
History comes alive in Stanley Nelson’s documentary about the Black Panthers, a revolutionary African-American political group that formed in 1966 to stop police brutality against their community.
The Second Amendment — the right to bear arms — was key to the start of the group. The Black Panthers, with their rifles and shotguns in full view and permitted by law, formed secure circles around black men and women who had been stopped by police. The establishment obviously took notice.
Members of this new political group soon found themselves in Sacramento, the state capital, armed and on the floor of the Legislature. They were there to bring attention to a list of demands that focused on education, housing and equal rights for blacks. Filmmaker Nelson managed to locate spotty but powerful footage of these incredible moments inside the Capital building. Indelible images run throughout the documentary, creating an important historical record of this controversial group.
Beautiful black-and-white images from the late 60s are stunning on the big screen, while the film’s soulful soundtrack keeps things moving. A lot of information is presented in two hours, but Nelson (Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple) threads together moments from these complicated radical times with a sure hand.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” leaves you on the edge of your seat as the white power structure retaliates — arrests, trials, and surveillance escalate to cold-blooded murder. Don’t miss this film. It’s set to air on PBS in 2016, but Nelson needs to raise $50,000 to support a theatrical release of the doc. You can donate via the Kickstarter trailer below.