“We were making history,” says Ericka Huggins, one of the Black Panther Party’s first female members, “and it wasn’t nice and clean. It wasn’t easy. It was complex.” It’s refreshing to see a documentary embrace a movement’s nuances instead of simplifying a subject for a mainstream audience.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution explores this diverse and complicated group’s roots in armed resistance, but also its social programs, its style and aesthetics, and the strengths of its women. Recent media attention on black males killed in confrontations with police serves as evidence racism in America didn’t end with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
In that context and approaching the Black Panthers’ 50-year anniversary in 2016, Stanley Nelson’s film is a timely historical document with lessons for a civil-rights movement still evolving today.
Cinematheque, May 3 (12 p.m.)