Menu Film Forum

Vanguard of the Revolution


Must End Tuesday, October 27


The rise and fall of the Black Panther Party during the 1960s and beyond is a uniquely American story of a growing pride in black culture, and more militant demands for justice and racial equality, with a cast of larger-than-life personalities including: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, and Fred Hampton. Renowned documentarian Stanley Nelson masterfully assembles rare archival footage that contextualizes the history of the Panthers – begun in response to racism and police brutality. THE BLACK PANTHERS does not hesitate to critique its subject, nor does it shy away from judging the corrupt activities of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI or the countless shoot-outs, raids and arrests that were the response of local police. It is a history that needs to be told to understand today’s incendiary racial landscape. 



“The Black Panthers roar again in a vital new documentary.” 
– Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice 

“CRITICS’ PICK. Stanley Nelson’s excellent new documentary…like any good work of history, sticks close to the facts, plotting complex events into a packed, fast-moving timeline… The film captures the drama of their rise and fall without sacrificing the nuances… The bulk of the testimony – rousing, rueful, funny and frank – comes from within the Black Panther rank and file… Mr. Nelson makes a strong case for their importance as both a political and cultural force… Sober yet electrifying.”
– A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Click here to read full review

Click here to view “The Black Panthers in Pictures” slideshow

“Stanley Nelson’s magnificent documentary. Of course, it’s useful – maybe even necessary – in movement politics to have both depth of purpose and theatrical appeal. But to portray the Panthers, Nelson has to encompass all this and much more… he succeeds in creating a coherent picture of the messiest, most contentious radical group of a chaotic era, and arguably its most consequential… Nelson and editor Aljernon Tunsil have a magician’s touch for giving life to period music and archival images, as well as a scholar’s resourcefulness in digging them up… A deeper and better-made film (than STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), and consequently more challenging.”
– Stuart Klawans, The Nation

“The release of THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF A REVOLUTION is well timed. Next year will mark half a century since Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panthers, in Oakland, California… The period is revived by a wealth of songs on the soundtrack, and by the sleek and succulent Panther look. The black beret, the leather jacket, the bountiful hair: has any demeanor made such an impact, so fast? Photographers came flocking, and (Nelson) is at liberty to feast on the images, both still and moving, that ensued.”
– Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

“The most eerie and unsettling subplot is the insidious, evil and dastardly machinations of the FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover… Stick with this movie. It has a lot to say, a lot to reveal and is pertinent to today’s testy police/civilian race relations.”
– Dwight Brown,

“Urgent and historical. Unvarnished. A classic rise-and-fall epic. Grows deeper as it goes on, revealing complex subplots and disturbing revelations. (A) rich trove of archival footage and vivid testimonies.”
 – Anthony Kaufman, Utne Reader Online

“Absorbing. Provocative. Compelling. Honest. Impressively detailed. Measures how much and how little has changed since Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Panthers in Oakland in 1966. The sense of calm and reflectiveness makes the voices (in the film) more persuasive.”
– Noel Murray, A.V. Club/The Onion


Loading the player ...

THE BLACK PANTHERS: Q & A with Stanley Nelson and producer Laurens Grant, moderated by Sabrina Gordon of the Black Documentary Collective.

Recorded September 2, 2015