Stanley Nelson: Director/Producer/Writer has directed and produced such acclaimed films as “Freedom Summer” which is an astounding history of what led up
to the Black Power Movement. It aired in June on PBS’s American Experience to wide acclaim. The audience at Sundance this past January was
astounded at how he put into context the 1964 voter registration drive in Mississippi, the surprising truth of the Chicago Democratic Convention and the
Mississippi delegation and how the undemocratic turn of events led to the Black Power Movement and to the Voting Rights Act.
“Freedom Riders” tells the story leading up to “Freedom Summer” and to quote Nelson, he thinks this is his best film. As “Freedom Summer” closes with Stokely Carmichael chanting “We Want Black Power!” so “ The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution” opens with Stokely still chanting “We Want Black Power”
which creates a progressive unity between the two films.
“The Murder Of Emmett Till” was
another eye-opening film which revealed so much beyond what the headlines of the times told us, the public.
“The Black Panthers” will be screened for free this weekend August 29 in Ferguson. Its theatrical release is a huge deal. Nelson has made over 35 films and
this is the first with theatrical distribution. With sufficient advertising money behind it, this momentous and timely film will released Wednesday
September 2 in New York’s Film Forum, September 11 at Magic Johnson’s in Harlem and then in 20 more cities including L.A.’s Landmark Nuart Theater on
September 25. Nelson will go to every opening along with former panthers, scholars and photographers.
You can see the schedule and more at www.BlackPanthers.com.
“The Black Panthers” was also Nelson’s eighth film (out of 12 docs he has made) to premiere at Sundance Film Festival. Winter 2016 will see the special
presentation on Independent Lens (Public TV).
Nelson says this about the Black Panthers film:
Seven years ago, I set out to tell the story of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party, a little known history that hadn’t been told in its entirety.
In particular, I wanted to offer a unique and engaging opportunity to examine a very complex moment in time that challenges the cold, oversimplified
narrative of a Panther who is prone to violence and consumed with anger. Thoroughly examining the history of the Black Panther Party allowed me to sift
through the fragmented perceptions and find the core driver of the movement: the Black Panther Party emerged out of a love for their people and a devotion
to empowering them. This powerful display of the human spirit, rooted in heart, is what compelled me to communicate this story accurately.
It is essential to me as a filmmaker to try and give the viewer a sense of what it has meant to be black in America and consider this within our
contemporary context. The legacy of the Black Panther Party had a lasting impact on the way black people think and see ourselves, and it is important that
we look at and understand that. As a great lover of music, I wanted to capture this sentiment in the music we used to give audiences a sense of the time
and the undercurrents of change and revolution.
I knew that archival footage would be just as important as interviews when telling this story. The Black Panther history cannot be encapsulated in sound
bytes and stills; the movement continues to live and breathe in the hearts and minds of those who endured. I had to dig deeper for footage that captured an
authentic portrayal of the Party and which was not distorted by mainstream media. What I found was a treasure of personal records from former members and
allies across the globe. These rarely seen images became an important character in the film, telling the story of how the Black Panther Party impacted all
communities. There is something incredibly powerful in seeing an array of faces – white, Asian, Latino, black, and native – together at a Black Panther
Party rally calling for the reform of corrupt and unjust state institutions.
Nearly half a century later, we find our voices in a renewed chorus for justice and equality. We continue to witness a state apparatus that perpetuates a
culture of fear and aggression with frequent and unwarranted displays of racial violence and oppression. As we consider the similarities between the
injustices of yesterday and today, it is important to understand that the Panthers were energized largely by young people – 25 and under – who started as a
small group of actively engaged individuals that collectively became an international human rights phenomenon. My hope is that the film reveals itself to
be more than just thought-provoking observations of our past. The parallels between pivotal moments within the movement and events occurring in our
communities today are undeniable. To better understand the Black Panther Party is to be able to better reflect on our own racial climate and collective
responsibility to ensure basic rights are fulfilled, not diminished, and that voices of justice and dissent are celebrated, not silenced.
The Nation loved the film; read its review,
White Hands and Black Skulls: From the Panthers to ‘Straight Outta Compton’
With numerous industry awards to his credit, Nelson is acknowledged as one of the preeminent documentary filmmakers working today. Currently he is in
production on “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story Of Historically Black Colleges And Universities”, which is the second in a series of three films Nelson
will direct as part of a new multi-platform PBS series entitled America Revisited.
He is also exec producing “Free for All: Inside the Public Library”