The Black Panther movement has been, not surprisingly, a subject woefully ignored by Hollywood. With the exception of a passing bit in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Mario Van Peeble’s ambitious but faltering Panther, the Panthers haven’t seen much action in the movies. It’s a shame, because it’s a fascinating bit of American history, rife with controversy and intense emotion. The Panthers were an amazing organization, but one that wasn’t without its faults. Equally stunning was the federal government’s response to the Panthers, with J. Edgar Hoover once calling them “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and devoting a massive amount of manpower and resources, via COINTELPRO, to attacking it.
With that bit of history in mind, there’s a new movie that’s quietly headed to theaters this December, Night Catches Us, synopsized thusly:
In 1976, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.
It’s written, co-produced, and directed by first timer Tanya Hamilton, which I’m both wary and excited about. Wary because it’s delicate and ambitious material for a first-time director, and excited because sometimes burgeoning directors can really surprise us. It’s got a beast of a cast, featuring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Kerry Washington (The Last King Of Scotland), Wendell Piece (“The Wire,” “Treme”) and Jamie Hector (Marlo from “The Wire”). Given the dearth of projects for black directors and actors (Tyler Perry fare notwithstanding), I’m wishing the project the best.
Take a look: