The more things change, the more they stay the same. The immersive documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution recalls conditions and injustices that bear a stark similarity to more current headlines. Objectively and deftly told by director Stanley Nelson, this is a chronicle of the revolutionaries who fought for racial justice when it was downright dangerous.
What did the Black Panthers do and what was their impact? By contextualizing the story of the Panthers and their explosive times, Nelson powerfully presents the group’s impetus in the injustice society of 1960s America. Drawing on personal interviews and historical footage, he displays the lofty ideals tirelessly pursued by enthusiastic members, and the terrible missteps by incompetent leadership that ultimately proved the undoing of the movement.
Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, and Charleston evince America’s persistent systems of racial violence. This insightful documentary never lectures the audience, but it leaves us with the question: what still needs to change, and what are we going to do to make that change?