Close Up

31 July 2012: What We Want, What We Believe: The Black Panther Party


As the Olympics begins in East London, we will revisit the issues raised by the Black Power salute in the 1968 games by exploring the history of the Black Panther Party. The programme includes 3 films by the San Francisco branch of the Newsreel Films film collective, Agnes Varda’s documentary on the Black Panthers and will conclude on a lighter note with Simon Hartog’s Soul In A White Room.

3 Newsreel Films: "Off the Pig", "Mayday", "Repression
Newsreel Films
1968 | 41 min | B/W | Digital

Formed in 1967, the Newsreel film collective was dedicated to chronicling and analyzing current events. In their time, they produced more than three dozen films throughout the US and abroad. By working directly with the Black Panthers, Newsreel was able to explore realities often ignored by traditional media outlets, while producing documents that the Panthers and other activists could use in organizing their own communities. The results speak for themselves and stand as true testimonials to the spirit of community self-defense and political savvy the Panthers are celebrated – and were targeted – for.

"The invaluable Movement documentaries Newsreel produced furthered the work of the Black Panther Party and now provide the essential visual record of the party’s early days." – Kathleen Cleaver

Black Panthers
Agnès Varda
1968 | 27 min | Colour | Digital

"Varda's half hour documentary on the Black Panther Party centers on a "Free Huey" rally held in Oakland. The film combines footage of the rally and Black Panther training exercises with interviews with Panther leaders such as Huey Newton (speaking from his jail cell about solitary confinement) and Kathleen Cleaver, who passionately defends the group's militancy." – Brian Rajski

Soul in a White Room 
Simon Hartog
1968 | 3 min | Colour | 16mm

"Soul in a White Room was filmed by Simon Hartog around autumn 1968. Music on the soundtrack is Cousin Jane by the Troggs. The man is Omar Diop-Blondin, the woman I don't recall her name. Omar was a student active in 1968 diromg 'les évênements de Mai et de Juin' at the Faculté de Nanterre, Université de Paris. Around this time, Godard was in London shooting Sympathy For The Devil / One Plus One with the Stones and Omar was here for that too, appearing with Frankie Y (Frankie Dymon) and the other black panthers in London.... Maybe Michael X too. After returning to Senegal, Omar was imprisoned and killed in custody in '71 or '72. I believe his fate is well known to the Senegalese people." – Jonathan Langran