Black Panthers (film)

Last updated
Black Panthers
Black Panthers (1968) title screen.jpg
Title screen
Directed by Agnès Varda
Cinematography David Myers [1]
Agnès Varda
Release date
  • 1968 (1968)
Running time
28 minutes
United States [2]

Black Panthers is a 1968 short documentary film directed by Agnès Varda. [3]


The film focuses on the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, during protests over the arrest of Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton for the murder of police officer John Frey in 1967. [4]


In the summer of 1968, people arrive in Oakland to protest Huey P. Newton's arrest. Newton is interviewed and talks about his poor treatment while incarcerated and talks about the ideals of the Black Panther movement which includes protecting the black community from the police, informing them of their rights, and taking advantage of license to carry firearm laws in order to arm Panthers to police the police.

Other people are interviewed, including Kathleen Cleaver [5] who talks about the natural hair movement and the increasing importance of women in positions of authority in the Black Panther movement. The film ends with Newton's conviction for manslaughter and a hate crime involving two police officers shooting the window of a Black Panther office where Newton's picture had been hung in the front window.


Varda and her crew shot the film in 1968 during her time in California while her husband Jacques Demy was in Hollywood working on Model Shop . [6]


The Criterion Collection released the film as part of the Eclipse box set Agnès Varda in California in 2015. [7]


In 2020, Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote of the film: "Viewed from a contemporary perspective, as the streets light up with the fury over yet more injustices against black people by the police, Black Panthers is timelier than ever, and a welcome antidote to blaring media headlines — a movie that goes beyond gawking at anger and frustration to highlight its genuine purpose." [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bobby Seale</span> Co-founder of the Black Panther Party

Robert George Seale is an American engineer, political activist and author. Seale is widely known for co-founding the Black Panther Party with fellow activist Huey P. Newton. Founded as the "Black Panther Party for Self-Defense", the Party's main practice was monitoring police activities and challenging police brutality in Black communities, first in Oakland, California, and later in cities throughout the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eldridge Cleaver</span> American activist (1935-1998)

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was an American writer, political activist, and convicted rapist who became an early leader of the political organization, Black Panther Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Huey P. Newton</span> Founder of the Black Panther Party (1942–1989)

Huey Percy Newton was an African-American revolutionary and political activist. Newton was most notable for being a co-founder of the Black Panther Party where he operated the organization as the de facto leader. Newton crafted the Party's ten-point manifesto with Bobby Seale in 1966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bobby Hutton</span> Member of the Black Panther Party

Robert James Hutton, also known as "Lil' Bobby", was the treasurer and first recruit to join the Black Panther Party. Alongside Eldridge Cleaver and other Panthers, he was involved in a confrontation with Oakland police that wounded two officers. Hutton was killed by the police under disputed circumstances. Cleaver stated Hutton was shot while surrendering with his hands up, while police stated he ignored commands and tried to flee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agnès Varda</span> French photographer, artist, film director and screenwriter

Agnès Varda was a Belgian-born French film director, screenwriter, photographer, and artist. Her pioneering work was central to the development of the widely influential French New Wave film movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her films focused on achieving documentary realism, addressing women's issues, and other social commentary, with a distinctive experimental style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Merritt College</span> Community College of Peralta District

Merritt College is a public community college in Oakland, California. Merritt, like the other three campuses of the Peralta Community College District, is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The college enrolls approximately 6,000 students.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black power movement</span> African-American social, political & cultural movement in the United States

The Black Power movement was a branch or counterculture within the civil rights movement of the United States, reacting against its more moderate, mainstream, or incremental tendencies and motivated by a desire for safety and self-sufficiency that was not available inside redlined African American neighborhoods. Black Power activists founded black-owned bookstores, food cooperatives, farms, media, printing presses, schools, clinics and ambulance services. The international impact of the movement includes the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black Guerrilla Family</span> African-American prison and street gang

The Black Guerrilla Family is an African-American black power prison and street gang founded in 1966 by George Jackson, George "Big Jake" Lewis, and W. L. Nolen while they were incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California.

David Hilliard is a former member of the Black Panther Party, having served as Chief of Staff. He became a visiting instructor at the University of New Mexico in 2006. He also is the founder of the Dr. Huey P. Newton foundation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kathleen Cleaver</span> American law professor and activist

Kathleen Neal Cleaver is an American law professor and activist, known for her involvement with the Black Power movement and the Black Panther Party, a political and revolutionary.

<i>A Huey P. Newton Story</i> 2001 film by Spike Lee

A Huey P. Newton Story is a 2001 American film adaptation directed by Spike Lee. The movie was created, written and performed, as a solo performance, by Roger Guenveur Smith at The Joseph Papp Public Theater. In this performance, Smith creates a representation of the activist Huey P. Newton's life and time as a person, a citizen and an activist. During the performance, images are shown up-stage from activist movement era. The simple arrangement of Smith sitting in a chair stage-center makes the audience focus on the dialogue of the performer. Smith captures the attention of the audience throughout the film by putting into play his solo performance skills. Smith's idea for the performance originated in 1989 and took root as a stage play in 1996. Smith's performance attempted to show a shy individual that Huey P. Newton believed himself to be. He did not consider himself a charismatic person, although he had made many contributions to his community. Smith shows Newton as a conservative individual who is disgusted by having microphones and cameras close to him.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black Panther Party</span> US organization from 1966 to 1982

The Black Panther Party (BPP), originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was a Marxist-Leninist and black power political organization founded by college students Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton in October 1966 in Oakland, California. The party was active in the United States between 1966 and 1982, with chapters in many major American cities, including San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia. They were also active in many prisons and had international chapters in the United Kingdom and Algeria. Upon its inception, the party's core practice was its open carry patrols ("copwatching") designed to challenge the excessive force and misconduct of the Oakland Police Department. From 1969 onward, the party created social programs, including the Free Breakfast for Children Programs, education programs, and community health clinics. The Black Panther Party advocated for class struggle, claiming to represent the proletarian vanguard.

<i>Revolutionary Suicide</i>

Revolutionary Suicide is an autobiography written by Huey P. Newton with assistance from J. Herman Blake originally published in 1973. Newton was a major figure in the American black liberation movement and in the wider 1960s counterculture. He was a co-founder and leader of what was then known as the Black Panther Party (BPP) for Self-Defence with Bobby Seale. The Chief ideologue and strategist of the BPP, Newton taught himself how to read during his last year of high school, which led to his enrollment in Merrit College in Oakland in 1966; the same year he formed the BPP. The Party urged members to challenge the status quo with armed patrols of the impoverished streets of Oakland, and to form coalitions with other oppressed groups. The party spread across America and internationally as well, forming coalitions with the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Cubans. This autobiography is an important work that combines political manifesto and political philosophy along with the life story of a young African American revolutionary. The book was not universally well received but has had a lasting influence on the black civil rights movement and resonates today in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Mulford Act was a 1967 California bill that prohibited public carrying of loaded firearms without a permit. Named after Republican assemblyman Don Mulford, and signed into law by governor of California Ronald Reagan, the bill was crafted with the goal of disarming members of the Black Panther Party who were conducting armed patrols of Oakland neighborhoods, in what would later be termed copwatching. They garnered national attention after Black Panthers members, bearing arms, marched upon the California State Capitol to protest the bill.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mark Comfort</span>

Mark Everett Comfort was a community activist who worked in early Oakland grassroots civil rights movements in the 1960s, before moving to Lowndes County, Alabama.

<i>One Sings, the Other Doesnt</i> 1977 French film

One Sings, the Other Doesn't is a 1977 French film written and directed by Agnès Varda that focuses on the lives of two women over 14 years against the backdrop of the Women's Movement in 1970s France.

The Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP) is a revolutionary black power organization based in the United States. The group claims ideological continuity with the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and, according to its official website, organizes gang members to "stop commiting [sic] genocide against each other and to stand up against white supremacy and capitalist oppression."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention</span>

The Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention (RPCC) was a conference organized by the Black Panther Party (BPP) that was held in Philadelphia from September 4–7, 1970. The goal of the Convention was to draft a new version of the United States Constitution and to unify factions of the radical left in the United States. The RPCC represented one of the largest gatherings of radical activists across movements and issues in the United States. The Convention was attended by a variety of organizations from the Black Power Movement, Asian American Movement, Chicano Movement, American Indian Movement, Anti-war movement, Women's Liberation, and Gay Liberation movements. Estimates of attendance range from 6,000 to 15,000. Attendees convened in workshops to draft declarations of demands related to various issues, which were ultimately intended to be incorporated into a new constitution which would function as the final vision of those movements. The RPCC also signified a shift in BPP focus from black self-defense to a broader revolutionary agenda. While conflicts did arise during the Philadelphia Convention, the conference was ultimately deemed a success by the Panthers. After the Philadelphia conference, attempts were made to reconvene to finalize and ratify the new constitution in Washington, DC a few months later but ultimately failed due to police interference and Panther disorganization.

All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50 was an exhibition hosted by the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) from October 8, 2016, to February 26, 2017. The exhibit was organized by OMCA's senior curator René De Guzman.

<i>Faces Places</i> (film) 2017 film

Faces Places is a 2017 French documentary film directed by Agnès Varda and JR. It was screened out of competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival where it won the L'Œil d'or award. The film follows Varda and JR traveling around rural France, creating portraits of the people they come across. It was released on 28 June 2017 in France and 6 October 2017 in the United States. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards. The film was Varda's second-to-last work, preceding Varda by Agnès in 2019.


  1. Smith, Alison (1998). Agnes Varda. French Film Directors. Manchester University Press. p. 201. ISBN   978-0719050619.
  2. "Black Panthers". The Criterion Collection . Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  3. Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia At The Berkeley Art Museum | East Bay Express
  4. "Black Panthers (1968) directed by Agnès Varda" (in French). Cine-Tamaris. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  5. Dargis, Manohla (18 December 2019). "The Many Ways of Seeing Agnès Varda". The New York Times . Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  6. 1 2 Kohn, Eric (2 June 2020). "Stream of the Day: Agnes Varda's 'Black Panthers' Documentary Is Timelier Than Ever". IndieWire . Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  7. Palmer, Landon (18 August 2015). "Agnès Varda in California: A French New Waver Surfs the Wild West". NonFics. Archived from the original on 20 August 2015. Retrieved 27 May 2016.