The director of Judas And The Black Messiah said he hopes the film makes it clear the Black Panthers “led with love”.
The movie stars British actor Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, chairman of the Panthers in the 1960s, while Lakeith Stanfield portrays an FBI mole betraying the black power political group.
It details the ruthless methods in attempting to bring down what the government and police in the US saw as a radical threat, culminating in a deadly shootout. Filmmaker Shaka King said it was important to present a positive narrative about the Panthers.
Speaking during an online panel discussing what he wants audiences to take from the film, he said: “Definitely I think it’s an opportunity to explore this country’s past and present.
“Crushing voices of dissent and really weaponising the state to just really quell efforts by citizens to make changes that actually lead to these ideals that America puts forth – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Ultimately, that’s all the Black Panthers were trying to bring to the masses, starting with those of us who are deeply deprived of that, which is black folks in this country.”
King added: “Also, making clear to folks that the Panthers really led with love. They weren’t a terrorist organisation rather they were community organisers and philosophers and thinkers and people who did the work. And putting forth that message that love being at the heart of all they were trying to accomplish.”
The Black Panther organisation was founded in 1966 to challenge police brutality against the African American community. They organised armed patrols in several US cities to protect residents.
London-born Kaluuya, 31, has won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Hampton, a revered activist with the Black Panthers.
The actor said the role was “humbling”.
He said: “When I really took in the scope of his ideas, his concepts, his beliefs, his love for the people, I felt honoured to step into, to spiritually, step into this position for this narrative and to be a part of continuing the legacy in my medium.”
Kaluuya said Hampton, who rose to prominence for his work with the Panthers in Chicago, had an “internal revolution” and was “free within his own mind, within his own spirit, within his own soul”.
He added: “(Hampton) wanted to give the people the tools to be free within themselves. To free themselves with education, with food, with legal aid, with all these tools that they put in place, the strategies they put in place to promote internal liberation as well as community.”
Judas And The Black Messiah will be released in the UK on February 26.