BBC’s Storyville goes from strength to strength yet again, this time showcasing the Stanley Nelson documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution”. It displays the rise and subsequent fall of the Black Panther Party, pitched by major media outlets as the extreme alternative to the peaceful protests taking place around 1960’s America, this was the movement that fought back against the discrimination of African Americans.
Set to an incredible soundtrack, this combination of archive footage and present day interviews helps shape the retrospective viewing of one of the most powerful socio-political movements in recent times. It looks to expand on the preconceived notions of why they existed, beyond that of what was taught in schools and seeks to educate audiences on why a Black Panther was much more than a gun carrying activist.
The rise and fall is charted by a number of factors and contrasts; their apparent organisation but lack of filtering new members, the manipulation of the law but the continued unprecedented brutality of the law enforcement and imprisonment of key figures, and the social popularity but undercurrent of dissent injected by the media, fuelled by on-going government investigations.
The intricacies of their story could be explored for much longer than the 2 hour running time, but it serves as concise and inherently relevant tale for an often misunderstood political group. They existed for equal rights for all, but simply put, the US government did not like people thinking for themselves. This conflict reached several tipping points, some more pivotal than others, each carefully explored in this documentary. Ultimately the movement fades out, and we are left with documentaries like this, wondering just how much has actually changed.