A new documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Black Panther movement

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    A scene from the documentary.

    A scene from the documentary.

    Using the voices of former Black Panther members and police, music and archival footage, the documentary weaves together the story of a group that was, in many ways, a logical follow up to the nonviolent civil rights protests of the 1960s.

    “Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” is the new documentary from Stanley Nelson.  Nelson is the Emmy-nominated, Peabody and MacArthur Foundation Award-winning director of a body of work that includes films on civil rights icons Emmett Till and Marcus Garvey and the Freedom Riders.  

    When Nelson and his production team started working on the project seven years ago, their goal was to create a film that told the complete history of the Black Panther movement because it was a story that “people really didn’t know.”  They felt that the ideas represented by the Black Panthers were important, but they could not have foreseen the development of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing protests over police violence.  

    “Little did we know that it would be as relevant as it is, at this historical moment that we find ourselves in now,” said Nelson.

    Using the voices of former Black Panther members and police, music and archival footage, the documentary weaves together the story of a group that was, in many ways, a logical follow up to the nonviolent civil rights protests of the 1960s.

    “There would have been no Black Panthers without the traditional civil rights movement of Martin Luther King,” said Nelson.

    The documentary focuses on events that took place nearly 50 years ago, but Nelson said that the same issues of inequality that the Black Panthers organized to confront still exist today.  

    “The Black Panthers began in Oakland as a result of police brutality.  And here we are today with Black Lives Matter and other movements around the country, as we see African-Americans being murdered by the police,” he said.

    The new documentary opens in Philadelphia Friday at Landmark Cinemas theater, Ritz at The Bourse. On Sunday at 7 p.m.,  James Peterson, the host of WHYY’s The Remix, will moderate a question-and-answer session with the filmmaker.  

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