2015 AFI DOCS FESTIVAL: Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

THE BLACK PANTHERS:  Vanguard of the Revolution

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I don’t know about you, but I wholeheartedly associated the The Black Panther Party with varying images of Huey P. Newton from eh 60’s.  My knowledge about them, what they stood for, how they came into existence was limited at best until I attended a screening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

What I learned is that 50 years later, there is very little progress in the civil rights movement for citizens of the U.S. With incidents happening in New York, LA and in  Ferguson (located in the suburbs of my hometown – St. Louis), it feels as though all the lives lost to make way for a better way of living have been for what?????

Director, Stanley Nelson declared that he had “always been interested in the Black Panther Party…I was 15 years old when they started and I thought they had swagger.”  It is Nelson and producer Laurens Grant’s wish that the film will be used to educate young people when it premieres on PBS this fall.  Having just completed editing of the doc Monday, January 19th, it was seven years in the making and sheds the light on the reality vs the myth of the Black Panther Party, its members and its goals.

Stanley Nelson will be the Charles Guggenheim honoree at the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater on Friday, June 19th.

At Sundance, we were treated to a Q&A with the wife of BPP member Eldridge Cleaver – Kathleen Cleaver.  She’s a tough cookie and still adheres to the code by which she and the BPP lived so many years ago, but is very clear about what that code is (I AM A REVOLUTIONARY) and why it was and still is important in the 21st century.

Even though many members like Elaine Brown, David Hilliard, Jamal Joseph, Jim Dunbar, Willian Calhoun, Roland Freeman, Kathleen Cleaver and others were interviewed, there was a noticeable absence of Bobby Seale (who is still living in the Bay Area).  It was understood that Seale may be holding out to tell his own version of the BPP story, how it unfolded and reached its demise.

To date, there are still 20 members of the Black Panther Party incarcerated.  The party met its untimely demise when Newton and Cleaver had differences of opinion on how the party should continue, meddling to tear the party apart from the inside out by Herbert Hoover and the CIA and the shift in responsibility from Newton from community to drugs.

About AFI DOCS
AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in the Washington, DC area.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the seat of our nation’s government.  The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, D A Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 13th year, the festival will be held June 17–21, 2015 in landmark Washington, DC venues and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.  Visit AFI.com/afidocs and connect on twitter.com/afidocs,facebook.com/afidocs and youtube.com/AFI.

About the American Film Institute
The American Film Institute, founded in the White House Rose Garden in 1965, is an educational arts organization committed to excellence in film.  AFI is America’s promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.  AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Filmsand AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award – the highest honor for a career in film – now in its 43rd year; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists; year-round exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world renowned AFI Conservatory.  For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilm,facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.

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