Review of Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers in Aesthetica Magazine

Stanley Nelson revisits one of America’s most contro­versial organisations of the 20th century in a new fea­ture length documentary – the first to explore the history of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Charting the rapid progression of the BPP from 1966 to the mid-1970s, Nelson iden­tifies the significance of the revolutionary party, particularly its influence among young people.

An essential introduction to the story of a politically and culturally iconic movement, The Black Panthers weaves an engaging chronology of the party’s rise and fall through the voices of BPP members, FBI informants, journalists and historians, presented alongside archival footage.

While at times curtailing some of the party’s grimmer acts, Nelson offers a fair representation of the Panthers’ strengths, such as its focus on community welfare, and weaknesses, including its laid-back recruitment policy. Seven years in the making, the film provides an inspiring, yet contextualised account of how the BPP became a symbol for change through not only challenging white supremacy but also capitalist oppression.

Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers is out on DVD (Dogwoof).

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