The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

The Black Panthers:
Vanguard of the Revolution
Directed by Stanley Nelson Jr.
Produced by
  • Laurens Grant
  • Stanley Nelson, Jr.
Starring Stu Richel
Music by Tom Phillips
  • Rick Butler
  • Antonio Rossi
Edited by Aljernon Tunsil
Firelight Films
Distributed by PBS Distribution
Release dates
  • January 23, 2015 (2015-01-23) (Sundance)
  • September 2, 2015 (2015-09-02)
Running time
115 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $584,109[2]

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is a 2015 American documentary film directed and written by Stanley Nelson Jr. The film combines archival footage and interviews with surviving Panthers and FBI agents to tell the story of the revolutionary black organization Black Panther Party. It is Nelson Jr.'s eighth film to premiere at Sundance.[3] The film is the first of a three-part series of documentary films about African-American history America Revisited.[4] It will be followed by Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and The Slave Trade: Creating a New World.

The film premiered on January 23, 2015 at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival before receiving a limited North American theatrical release on September 2, 2015.


The film took seven years to complete. Nelson interviewed over fifty people for the film, with around thirty making it into the final cut. Infamous wiretaps of the Black Panthers were never accessed through the Freedom of Information Act, despite repeated attempts on behalf of the producer. Much of the archival footage used in the film has never been publicly broadcast before, with much time and effort going into locating and digitizing obscure resources.[5]


Critical reception

The film received critical acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 92% rating based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The site's consensus states: "The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution offers a fascinating -- if somewhat rudimentary -- introduction to a movement, and an era, that remains soberingly relevant today."[6] Metacritic reports an 80 out of 100 rating based on 17 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7] The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, describing it as "a strong if only occasionally transporting biography of a movement that terrified the establishment in its day."[8]

However, Danny Haiphong wrote for Black Agenda Report: "In nearly two hours, Nelson displays a montage of interviews and video clips that effectively depict the Black Panther Party as a non-ideological, disorganized, and infantile group. There is ZERO mention of the Black Panther Party's revolutionary, socialist orientation. No historical context is given on why or how the Black Panther party formed, or what activities and actions helped grow the organization... Such a racist simplification erases the heroic struggle against imperialism waged by these national liberation struggles and strips the Black Panther Party of their active and independent efforts to forge internationalist solidarity with them."[9][10]


  1. "THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION (15)". British Board of Film Classification. October 7, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  2. "Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  3. Canfield, David. "Meet the 2015 Sundance Filmmakers #48: Stanley Nelson Showcases the Black Panther Party in New Documentary". Indiewire. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  4. Espina, Alfonso. "2015 Sundance Film Festival Profile: Stanley Nelson (Director: Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution)". Indiewood/Hollywouldn't. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  5. "'The Party Had So Often Been Misportrayed': The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution Director Stanley Nelson". Filmmaker. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  6. "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  7. "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
  8. DeFore, John. "'The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution': Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  9. Haiphong, Danny. "Black Agenda Report." In Defense of the Panthers: Why the Film "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" Should Be Put Down, and the Book "Black Against Empire" Picked Up. Black Agenda Report, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 Oct. 2015.
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