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Oscars Special: Racial Tension in Judas and the Black Messiah

The film achieved 6 nominations for the 2021 Oscar Awards, portraying the racial tension that existed in the 60s.

Still from the film 'Judas and the black messiah'

The film is set in the late 1960s when the Black Panther Party reached its peak on the American scene. Photo: YT-Warner Bros. Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Especial Óscars: Tensión racial en Judas y el mesías negro

Judas and the Black Messiah is the second film by director Shaka King. It tells the story of an FBI informant named Bill O'Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) who infiltrates the Black Panther Party in order to harm the organization's director in Chicago, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya).

The film is set in the late 1960s when the Black Panther Party reached its peak on the American scene. The FBI, in the direction of J. Edgar Hoover at that time, declared the move as the greatest threat to the United States over spies from the Soviet Union or China.

What is Judas and the black messiah about?

In that context, Fred Hampton, in his 20s, begins to establish himself as one of the most resonant voices in Chicago for the Black Panther Party. That is when the FBI began a campaign of persecution against him, incriminating him in crimes to keep him in prison and, finally, creating a plot to assassinate him. Bill O'Neal becomes the party's security captain and works as an FBI informant for Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) to harm the revolutionary movement.

The film garnered 6 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor with Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, Best Original Screenplay for Will Berson and Shaka King, Best Original Song for HER and Dernst's 'Fight for You' Emile II, and Best Cinematography for Sean Bobbitt.

Nominations and possibilities

After a series of short films, some episodes of several series, and his debut film 'Newlyweeds', Shaka King is shown as one of the African-American filmmakers to be reckoned with from the latest litter alongside Ava DuVernay, Jordan Peele, and Barry Jenkins. Led by Judas and the black messiah, his trail will be haunted by moviegoers from now on.

The acting of Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, who had already worked together on 'Huye!', Was impeccable. Therefore, it is very likely that one of them will win the award in the category of Best Supporting Actor. A nomination in which victory could be more certain is for Best Original Song with the performance of the R&B singer, HER. However, the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay would be the real winning chip compared to its rivals.

Judas and the Black Messiah has a powerful plot that draws on the lyric thanks to the speeches given by Fred Hampton on crucial occasions that become small climaxes. In itself, the film works as a long discourse on police brutality, structural racism, and for that reason, it lacks a clear protagonist, because it is the word that steals the viewer's attention. From there the premise would start to win Best Original Screenplay.

Also read: The actors who spent the least time on screen and won the Oscar

Despite the fact that the film has a notable political charge, the internal battles with which each character battles are perceptible. Bill O'Neal grapples with the burden of betraying whoever became his guide; Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback) struggles with the fear of raising a child in a society that clouds every dream of African American childhood; and Fred Hampton struggles with being willing to give and dedicate his life to his people.

Judas and the black messiah manages to provoke, question, move, inspire and anger with impeccable cinematography, performances that do justice to the characters, and a script - which despite being overloaded with poetics - works as a necessary document to continue rescuing characters that they were important in the fight for the civil rights of African Americans during the 20th century.