Black Panthers Screen 5 articles

Black Panthers


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  • If Varda’s approach here seems rather subdued, almost functional, the film nonetheless conveys a sense of both the seriousness and popularity of the movement without diluting the rhetoric of its subjects.

  • Though one could see the white and newly-arrived-in-America Varda as a detached observer, there’s a universality and an empathy to her film that keep it from exoticizing its subjects. As she revealed in a 1977 interview, she considers Black Panthers to be a crucial moment for her political thinking, one that revealed for her parallels between the black power and feminist movements.

  • More conventionally structured, but equally inquisitive and exceedingly urgent, the following year's Black Panthers forgoes the playful formal measures of Uncle Yanco in favor of observational energy and objective tact.

  • It is a casually electrifying account of Black Panther Party rallies and demonstrations. The Panthers’ physical bearing and political analysis made them the big story that season on the Bay Area left (or so it seemed to me as an undergraduate new to California with a summer job in the Ramparts magazine mailroom), and Ms. Varda nailed it.

  • Even now this film is a vital primer on local political history, by default a sobering comparative account of so-called progress since it was made, and all the more engaging for Varda’s palpable eagerness to understand a uniquely American (and Californian) strain of activist pushback against authoritarian oppression. Whether or not she regretted missing out on the political upheavals in France in 1968, she certainly seized the opportunity to broaden her perspective here.

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