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In-Depth Interview: Filmmaker Stanley Nelson on His New Black Panther Documentary

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Veteran documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson talks about The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, now in theaters nationwide.Nelson, who has produced numerous documentaries on many important subjects, explains what moved him to bring the history of the Panthers and the Black power movement of the 1960’s to contemporary audiences.

We discuss the Chicago Panthers, and PBC’s 1970’s coverage of the legal action following the 1969 raid by the FBI and Chicago police where Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were executed.  Nelson accurately portrays these events, which led to the exposure of the FBI COINTELPRO program intended to provoke internecine fights in the movement.

Nelson also explains the importance of the 2-year trial of the “New York 21” which jailed prominent members, drained resources, and created internal conflict.  While all 21 defendants were acquitted, Nelson says the government was successful in its counterintelligence operations.

We also talk about Bobby Seale’s run for mayor of Oakland in 1972, after which the Panthers fizzled out, and leaders like Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver lost touch with the movement.

We discuss the connections between the 1960’s Panthers and today’s Black Lives Matter movement, and Nelson comments on a song called The Origins by Rebel Diaz.