A new revolutionary culture was emerging in 1960s America, and those seeking to transform the system believed radical change was not only feasible but imminent. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.
That’s the premise of Stanley Nelson’s documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 in Steinberg Auditorium on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.
The screening is co-sponsored by Cinema St. Louis and the Program in African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences; the Center for Diversity and Inclusion; and the Washington University Film & Media Archive of Washington University Libraries.
The film, the second offering in the Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series, explores the party’s complicated history through rare archival footage and interviews with key players: Black Panthers – both those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it – police, FBI informants, journalists and white supporters and detractors.
An essential history, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” is a vibrant chronicle of a pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26
Where: Steinberg Auditorium, Washington University
How much: Free
The Henry Hampton series debuted in November 2014 at the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) with “Through a Lens Darkly.” The series is named in honor of Hampton (1940-98), a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University, where his 35,000-plus-item collection is housed in the libraries’ Film and Media Archive.
Hampton’s works chronicled the 20th century’s great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. The best known of Hampton’s 60-plus major film and media projects was his epic 14-part PBS series “Eyes on the Prize.” More than 25 years after its release, it is still considered the definitive work on the civil-rights movement.
The screening features an introduction and post-film question-and-answer session with producer Laurens Grant.
Her credits include “Jesse Owens,” which she both produced and directed,
and “Freedom Riders” and “The Murder of Emmitt Till,” which she helped
Nelson – a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant and the 2013 National Humanities Medal – was honored with the Contemporary Cinema Award at SLIFF in 2010.
One of the world’s most significant documentarians, Nelson has won dozens of industry awards, including the Emmy and Peabody. Nelson’s films address a diverse range of topics, from “Wounded Knee” to “Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple,” but his films on the African-American experience are his signature achievement.
Those documentaries include “Freedom Summer,” “Freedom Riders,” “A Place of Our Own,” “The Murder of Emmett Till,” “Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise,” “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,” and “Two Dollars and a Dream: The Story of Madame C.J. Walker and A’lelia Walker.”