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Panther (1995, Marcus Chong; Courtney B Vance)



In 1966, the USA was being rocked by the developing crises overseas as well as facing huge unrest at home, not least amid the emerging civil rights movement and political activity of more extreme movements. Among the emerging organisations demanding fundamental change was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, established by Huey Newton (Marcus Chong) and Bobby Seale (Courtney B Vance), who aimed initially for a community-based support system.

Their aims soon became more politically overt and they emerged as a major political force with a radical and even militant agenda that led J Edgar Hoover to label the Panthers as Public Enemy Number One.

Mario Van Peebles ably recreates a sense of the emerging feeling of empowerment among the Panther members, who found themselves able to set the agenda, perhaps for the first time in many of their lives, and also captures the fear the Panthers engendered. The story of how a localised attempt to do something for the community became a radical political organisation is a fascinating one in its own right. The film is perhaps weakened by the sub-plot suggesting a government and Mafia inspired plot to flood the black communities with drugs, but Panther still stands as a fascinating testament to one of the most interesting and less well documented (at least on film) episodes of modern American politics.

production details
USA | 124 minutes | 1995

Director: Mario Van Peebles
Writer: Melvin Van Peebles, from his novel

Kadeem Hardison as Judge
Bokeem Woodbine as Tyrone
Courtney B. Vance as Bobby Seale
Angela Bassett as Dr. Betty Shabazz
Marcus Chong as Huey Newton
Bobby Brown as Rose
Jenifer Lewis as Rita
Roger Guenveur Smith as Pruitt
Chris Rock as Yuck Mouth
Nefertiti as Alma
M. Emmet Walsh as Dorsett
Robert Peters as Cop at Ramparts
Brian Turk as Deputy