With the Oscars less than a week out, everyone’s chattering about which Best Picture nominee stands the best chance of scoring the coveted statuette. But the Wakandan superhero of repute may not be the only Black Panther with a hold on the zeitgeist for much longer.
An item from Variety has broken the news that rising stars Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield have entered negotiations to star in Jesus Was My Homeboy, a dramatic rendering of the righteously radical Black Panther Party’s activities during the ’60s and the murder of activist leader Fred Hampton at the hands of the Chicago Police Department and the FBI.
Kaluuya would portray Hampton, an impassioned firebrand for the cause of civil rights whose outspoken anti-establishment streak landed him on plenty of watchlists. A raid on his personal living quarters in 1969 resulted in Hampton’s untimely death, which courts later ruled a “justifiable homicide” to the tune of a $1.85 million settlement.
Stanfield would play William O’Neal, the Panther-turned-informant that provided the feds with the floor plans to Hampton’s apartment. If the film intends to portray Hampton as a Christlike martyr, then O’Neal would be the Judas figure of the story, and like Iscariot himself, O’Neal spent his life haunted by a guilt that ultimately drove him to suicide.
Ryan Coogler, a man who has no shortage of familiarity with panthers of various blackness, will produce the film slated as a directorial project for Shaka King. Most of King’s recent credits come from TV (he helmed a few episodes of High Maintenance and People of Earth), but those who have made the effort to seek out his earlier indie feature Newlyweeds have reported back positively.
As the American mainstream gradually sheds its discomfort with big-ticket cinema outside of the square of white-maleness, a wider range of stories will be able to be told. This film could provide a litmus test for how far we’ve come; Hampton’s life story isn’t just an expression of racial disharmony, but a call to arms for those disenfranchised by a government threatened by black power.
Published 20 Feb 2019
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