The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

The Black Panther Party has a reviled, adored, misunderstood, and mythologized history. They sought to drastically transform the system.

Black panthers 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
February 16, 2016
120 minutes
Funding Initiative
Series and Special Projects
  • Nominated laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2015 International Documentary Association (IDA)-Best Feature Nomination
  • Nelson stanley filmmaker bio

    Stanley Nelson

    Stanley Nelson, a 2002 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is executive producer of Firelight Films and director of Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. His most recent film, Freedom Riders, is the winner of three Primetime Emmy Awards. Over the last ten years, Nelson has garnered multiple industry awards for his films: Jesse Owens, Freedom Riders, Wounded Knee, A Place of Our Own, Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind, The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords, and The Murder of Emmett Till. During this period, he also produced and directed Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice and Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple, which was shortlisted for the Academy Awards. Several of his films have shown at the Sundance Film Festival. He currently is also in production on another film, Freedom Summer, which explores a key movement during the civil rights era — the1964 Freedom Summer campaign.

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    The Film

    Change was coming to America and the fault lines were no longer ignorable — cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change.
    The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature length documentary to showcase the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, chronicles this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.