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Change was coming to America and the fault lines could no longer be ignored—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 explore 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 trove 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. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Jamal Joseph, and many others, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.

Upcoming Screenings​

Opens September 2 

Film Forum

9/2, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Producer Laurens Grant moderated by Sabrina Gordon, Black Documentary Collective 

9/3, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson, moderated by Moikgantsi Kgama, ED of ImageNation Cinema

9/4, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Panther Flores Forbes, moderated by Akiba Solomon, Editor of Colorlines

9/5, 5:00pm: Stanley Nelson to introduce screening

9/5, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Rita Williams-Garcia, moderated by Akila Worksongs Founder and President April R. Silver

9/6, 5:00pm: Stanley Nelson to introduce screening

9/6, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Jamilah Lemieux (Ebony)

9/7, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson

9/8, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson, Panthers Jamal Joseph and Omar Barbour, moderated by Dante Barry, ED of Million Hoodies

9/9, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson, moderated by Dr. Andrea Weiss, Founder of the Documentary Forum at City College of New York 

9/10, 7:15pm: Stanley Nelson and Gerald Lefcourt moderated by Vince Warren Center for Constitutional Rights

9/11, 7:15pm: Panther Omar Barbour, moderated by Alvin Starks, Director of Special Initiatives at Schomburg Center

9/15, 5:00pm: Stanley Nelson, co-presented by Studio Museum of Harlem, New York Historical Society, and the Museum of Contemportary African Diasporan Arts

New York, NY

September 2

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Series - Plaza de Oro Theater

Santa Barbara, CA

September 7

Cambridge Film Festival

Cambridge, ENGLAND

September 8

Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent Film

Chapel Hill, NC

Opens September 11

AMC Magic Johnson Harlem

9/11: Stanley Nelson and Panther Jamal Joseph in person

Harlem, NY

Opens September 11

Landmark Kendall Square

Stanley Nelson in Person 9/12 and 9/13!

Boston, MA

September 15

Space Gallery

Portland, ME

September 16

Charles Theater

Special advance screening with Stanley Nelson!

Baltimore, MD

Opens September 18

E Street Cinema

Stanley Nelson and Special Guests in person 9/18!

Producer Laurens Grant in person 9/19!

Washington, DC

Opens September 18

Landmark Ritz at the Bourse

Producer Laurens Grant in person 9/18!

Stanley Nelson and Special Guests in person 9/20!

Philadelphia, PA

Opens September 18

Charles Theatre

Stanley Nelson and Special Guests in person 9/19!

Baltimore, MD

Opens September 18

Webster Film Series

St. Louis, MO

Opens September 18

Northwest Film Forum

Seattle, WA

September 18

Sydney Underground Film Festival


September 20

Sydney Underground Film Festival


Opens September 25

Landmark Nuart

Stanley Nelson in person 9/25 and 9/26!

Los Angeles, CA

Opens September 25

Gene Siskel Film Center

Stanley Nelson in person 9/27!

Chicago, IL

Opens September 25

O Cinema Wynwood

Miami, FL

Opens September 25

Digital Gym Cinema

San Diego, CA

September 28

Milwaukee Film Festival - BlackLENS Special Screening

Stanley Nelson in person!

Milwaukee, WI

September 30

Marchesa Hall & Theater

Presented by the Austin Film Society

Austin, TX

Opens October 2

Landmark Opera Plaza

Stanley Nelson in person opening weekend!

San Francisco, CA

Opens October 2

Piedmont Theatre

Stanley Nelson in person opening weekend!

Oakland, CA

Opens October 2

Shattuck Cinemas

Stanley Nelson in person opening weekend!

Berkeley, CA

Opens October 2

Smith Rafael Film Center

Stanley Nelson in person opening weekend!

San Rafael, CA

Opens October 2

CCA Santa Fe

Santa Fe, NM

October 5

Milwaukee Film Festival - BlackLENS Special Screening

Milwaukee, WI

October 8

Hollywood Theatre - Special Advance Screening

Portland, OR

Opens October 9

Hollywood Theatre

Portland, OR

Opens October 9

Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas

Stanley Nelson in person 10/9 and 10/10!

Atlanta, GA

Opens October 9

Landmark Theatres

Minneapolis, MN

Opens October 9

Real Art Ways

Hartford, CT

October 11

Detroit Film Theater

Stanley Nelson via Skype Q&A!

Detroit, MI

November 3

The Nickelodeon

Columbia, SC


Previous Screenings

Sundance Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival 

Sheffield Film Festival

Pan African Film Festival

Independent Film Festival Boston

deadCENTER Film Festival

Freep Film Festival

Louisiana Film Festival

AFI Docs

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Seattle International Film Festival

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

White River Indie Fest

Encounters Film Festival

Cinema St. Louis

Boulder International Film Festival

Cleveland International Film Festival

Directors Fortnight MoMA

Minneapolis Film Festival

Nashville Film Festival

River Run International Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Festival

DOXA Documentary Film Festival

Maryland Film Festival

Skyway Film Festival

Maine International Film Festival

Black Harvest Film Festival

Woodstock Film Series


Director's Statement

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....  Read Full Statement

-Stanley Nelson, Director

Filmmaker Bios

Director, Producer, Writer
Stanley Nelson

Director, Producer, Writer

Stanley Nelson is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur "genius" Fellow, and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Laurens Grant


Laurens Grant is a Peabody and 3-time Emmy award-winning producer and director who has been making films for more than a decade.

Aljernon Tunsil


Aljernon Tunsil is an Emmy-winning editor who has been editing films on a range of topics from civil rights, Native Americans, and political issues for more than a decade.

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Press Reviews



Press Notes

"MAGNIFICENT! A coherent picture of the messiest, most contentious radical group of a  chaotic era, and arguably its most consequential." 

-Stuart Klawans, The Nation

"Excellent. Exceptional! The women's voices are as vital and important as those of their male counterparts, something not often seen in documentaries about times of social change." 

-Kelly L. Carter, Buzzfeed




See All Reviews

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