*breathes* At this very moment, I’m currently sitting here listening to a random “night time” music playlist on Spotify, and silently begging myself to close my laptop, drink this rum punch I got sitting in the fridge, and just go TF to bed! This is no doubt the hardest post I’ve ever had to write. For some reason, my anxiety is on 10, my nerves are shot, my stomach is in knots, and I’m seriously starting to realize why so many of us drink our pain away. But I know so many of you look for my thoughts before or after watching a movie, so I can’t just not write this Judas and the Black Messiah review!
I also, don’t just want to run from these feelings. However, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to turn all of these feelings into words!
But I’m gonna do my best.
So, a couple of days ago I screened Judas and the Black Messiah at the Sundance Film Festival. I’ve been wanting to see this film since the first set of trailers dropped. I was excited even, which now seems foolish considering the content that needs to be consumed here. Yet, when Sundance announced Judas and the Black Messiah would be a late addition to their schedule I immediately added it to my schedule.
It wasn’t until a few minutes before the film premiered that my body truly understood what was happening. Just like right now, only way less intense, my anxiety shot through the roof, and the nerves set in.
Was I prepared to watch this? Was I ready to really learn more about our history?
Despite being unsure, I hit play anyway. And as LaKeith appeared on screen, my body began to relax. This was gonna be good!
And it was!
Judas and the Black Messiah review
Please note there are spoilers below, but this post includes what could trigger you while watching so that you can mentally prepare .
Judas and the Black Messiah stars Fred Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, played by Daniel Kaluuya, who becomes Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party — putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police.
But to destroy the revolution, the authorities need a man on the inside.
Judas and the Black Messiah also stars Dominique Fishback, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Ashton Sanders, and Martin Sheen and is directed by Shaka King.
Shaka King handles Judas and the Black Messiah in the same way most Black folks handle traumatic experiences, with a touch of humor and snark. Enough to make you relax, even if just for a moment, so you’re not weeping through the entire experience.
And while I wanted more music, the jazz score was wonderful. Once the film ended, it was apparent that what I thought was a “lack of music” that could have “enhanced” this film, was really just enough.
Judas and the Black Messiah isn’t supposed to “feel good”! This isn’t supposed to be a party, or a fun time at the theaters (or well in this case, probably yo house). We aren’t supposed to get lit while watching this!
This shit really f*cking happened! This shit isn’t a damn joke! And now that it’s over I realize how adding feel good hip hop music to this could have taken away from that message.
However, I will say that this did start off a tad bit slow. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. But the lack of intense feelings at the beginning of this film gave me a false sense of security, that was instantly striped away towards the end. At one point, I sat back in my chair, as if nothing eventful was bound to happen, as if I could just relax and watch this without being impacted at all.
But of course the ending fixed that right up!
Triggers for Black people
Listen, the ending is definitely traumatic! I’m not even gonna sugar coat that for you, because honestly you need to prepare for this!
I’m not joking when I say watching Judas and the Black Messiah is like watching the entire season of Lovecraft Country … at once. Especially since Judas and the Black Messiah touches on a few of the same moments Lovecraft Country did.
So you’ll need to brace for impact while watching, have tissues on hand if you’re the crying type, and be sure to give yourself time afterwards to process what you watched. Because honestly … it’s been days and as you can see I’m still not quite over what I saw.
The anger in me knowing that this happened YEARS ago, and is still happening today is something quite unexplainable. The anger I feel against everyone that lived through this is insane! I’ll go into that in more details in a different post, but sadly this is going to sit with me, and us, for a long time.
The same way we still think about Queen and Slim, or Us, for how great they were, is the same way we’ll be thinking about Judas and the Black Messiah months later.
However, if you’re worried about watching Fred Hampton’s murder play out on screen, you can relax … a bit. It’s going to sit with you for awhile I’m SURE. BUT it’s not as traumatic as it could have been! Shaka purposely didn’t show us everything because he said he didn’t wanna put us through it. But as a mom? As a Black woman? It’s still HARD! As a Black person in general, it’s hard! So I’m grateful that we didn’t have to actually watch him die!
But even subtle references triggered TF outta me! Emmett Till’s death pops up at one point, and after watching Lovecraft Country, I’m sure his death will now be a trigger for me. Just like hearing a list of Black names being said, knowing that someone is listing names of people who have died will forever be a trigger for me now. And both of these occur in the film.
So like I said, brace yourself!
Impact film has on Black woman and Black mothers
And if you’re a mom or pregnant, Judas and the Black Messiah is going to hit you on a whole different level than others! Being Black comes with its own set of triggers, but being a Black woman AND a Black mom, comes with more anxiety and trauma than we like to let on.
Watching Deborah listen to Fred talk about dying, as she carried his child, was heartbreaking. Listening to her poem, as she questioned if she was a “bad motherf*cker or just a bad mother” almost brought me to tears. And honestly, with everything that happened in this film, it’s the scenes with Deborah that made me feel the most!
Her reading the poem, her shielding Fred’s body at the end, while they shoot the damn place up, not caring that she was pregnant, putting not just herself at risk, but also her child at risk! Watching her not cry as she listened to them kill the father of her child, the love of her life, a few feet away from her, not being able to help at all. It’s a lot!
And not just because Dominique Fishback played the f*ck outta that role! But also because I know that Black women just aren’t loved enough, and this is just another example of a Black woman who goes out of her way to ensure that her man is protected.
But yet, we don’t ever get that in return! Knowing that she loved him enough to put her child’s life at risk to protect him?!
I really don’t have the words for this right now!
And the impact on women in this film doesn’t stop there! Because when another character dies, we have to watch his mom cry, much like we’ve had to do over the last few months/years.
When she said “he did that, but that ain’t all he did” admitting that he may have done some bad things, but there was more to him than his mistakes, my heart shattered.
I swear it took everything in me to not cry! Because she represents so many mothers, who have had to watch their sons die, and be told that he was some criminal, when in fact he was so much more!
Look … let me wrap this thang up before I really sink into my emotions!
Judas and the Black Messiah reminded me why I tried to ignore our history for so damn long, but it’s still a must watch.
Rarely do I watch traumatic Black films, because not only are they incredibly hard to watch, and stomach, sometimes they feel like we’re just consuming trauma for the hell of it, with no real rhyme or reason, other than to be “entertained”?
But Judas and the Black Messiah doesn’t feel like entertainment! It feels more like an amazing documentary on someone’s life. Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfied and Dominique Fishback, along with everyone else gave incredible performances!
Dominique, Daniel and LaKeith really made me feel like I was watching this shit play out in real time. Hell, that’s probably why I’m still so angry today.
Yet I’m hoping that after everyone watches the ending, and the interview with the real William O’ Neal, learning about how much money he made betraying someone who eventually became his friend, maybe … just maybe … we’ll all realize that instead of tearing each other down and treating each other like competition, we need to uplift each other!
We already have so many odds stacked against us! As Fred said, “imagine what we could do together”. If The Crowns and The Black Panthers didn’t put their differences aside, and come together to help each other, where would they be?
If they had joined together early on to fight together, instead of fighting against each other where would we be today?
It’s not enough that we “root for everyone Black”, we’ve gotta also stand up for one another. So while movies like these are hard to watch, supporting our Black directors and actors, will get us more Black films!
It’ll put our stories in the forefront, and continue to remind us why we need to keep pushing forward. Why we need to be kind to our neighbors. Hell, sometimes we just need a reminder of where TF we came from, so we can remember how badass we really are!
So while this film is extremely hard to watch, and process, I am grateful that I watched it. And it will stand as my reminder that we’ve come a long way, but we still have so much further to go! I hope that you’ll also be able to find “your good, your truth, and your peace” in this film as well. Don’t run from your anger, or the feelings you feel after watching this.
Take it all in, and process everything! Then turn that anger into fuel and let it propel you to do great things, as everyone who suffered from this tragedy would have wanted us too.