Director: Shaka King
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery, Algee Smith, Dominique Thorne, Martin Sheen
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
Out of all of the amazing things that Judas and the Black Messiah did for the legacy of Chairman Fred Hampton, one of my favorite things is that this film gave us a unique piece of history: Judas is the first film with an all-Black production team to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. While the path for Black creatives in Hollywood starts with more Black faces on screen, the real change is done with the Black people in producer roles, cinematographer roles, key grips, best boys, and any other role that scrolls during the credits.
Daniel Kaluuya earned each and every Best Supporting Actor award he received (which include both the Oscar and the Golden Globe), bringing Chairman Fred to life on screen with all of his fiery passion. Despite the failed campaign for Lead Actor (how the hell are they BOTH Supporting Actors when the film’s title literally starts with Judas and?, LaKeith Stanfield’s turn as Bill O’Neal (a.k.a. the man who was planted to snitch on Chairman Fred to the feds, ultimately helping in Hampton’s murder) is strong. He nailed O’Neal’s conflict with his position and what his actions would mean for the movement, a performance that had an effect on him mentally. The film also featured so much Black Excellence from Black Hollywood in all shapes and sizes—Dominique Fishback alone is worth the price of admission. Shaka King’s direction (and that keen eye; Judas is a beautiful film in and of itself). The Lucas Brothers being able to step outside of the box they’d been pigeonholed into and make a statement for decades-long injustices being done to Black people in this country. “To this day,” Kenny Lucas explained during a conversation with Complex earlier this year, “the FBI still has the building named after J. Edgar Hoover. I think that that’s a testament to how disrespectful we’ve been to Hampton’s legacy.”
Being able to craft a film that a) properly pays homage to the legacy of Chairman Fred, while b) putting on for Black Hollywood, and c) helping dismantle systemic racism? Your favorite film of 2021 could never. —khal