The last time Daniel Kaluuya had anything to do with a “Black Panther movie”, it was while fighting a comic book battle in Wakanda. Judas and the Black Messiah is most definitely not a movie about comic book battles.
The upcoming true-story drama directed and co-written by Shaka King sees Kaluya starring as Fred Hampton, an incendiary revolutionary who in 1968 became the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther movement and put himself right in the crosshairs of the FBI. And helping to place him in those crosshairs was LaKeith Stanfield’s William O’Neal, a petty criminal coerced by the US government into infiltrating the polarizing freedom movement.
Warner Bros released the first trailer for the film last week like bombshell without any real build-up, and already this has awards buzz written all over it. Hell, even this explosive trailer deserves an award for how it’s edited together. Check it out below.
Damn, that looks fantastic! Both Kaluuya and Stanfield are amazing actors, and this looks to potent as hell. King is making his feature film directing debut here, co-scripting with writing partner Will Berson, off a story the two conceived with Keith and Kenneth Lucas. The film is actually being produced by none other than Ryan Coogler, the firebrand filmmaker who went from indie wunderkind to blockbuster maestro with Marvel’s Black Panther.
It’s unfortunately not all great though as Judas and the Black Messiah has already taken some flak for casting the British Kaluuya in the role of an African-American icon. This is a rather infamous Hollywood trend with the likes of David Oyelowo playing Martin Luther King Jr. or Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet Tubman.
Kaluuya had previously shot to fame in the US – and earned an Oscar nomination – playing an African-American character in Jordan Peele’s Get Out which also received some criticism at the time. But attending a virtual panel (via Variety), King defended his decision to cast the Brit, saying that it came from a “diasporic way of thinking.”
I’m well aware of the debate around British actors playing American Black, iconic figures. But I was born in America, my family is Caribbean and I have a South African name so I am, literally, emblematic of a diasporic way of thinking.
Kidnapped Africans ended up all around the world. We have a lot more in common than people think, in terms of our experience and trying to overthrow white supremacy.
The Panthers, ideologically, were very international. So I can’t imagine there would be an objection. Maybe there would be, but I didn’t go into this thinking there would be.
Whether or not you agree with Kaluuya’s casting here, there’s no denying that Judas and the Black Messiah just shot up the list highly anticipated movies for next year. The film also stars Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen. It is scheduled for release some time in 2021.
Last Updated: August 11, 2020