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Premiered February 16, 2016 on PBS. Get your film poster and DVD today!


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​

Firelight Media is proud to partner with Indie Lens Pop-Up to present free screenings nationwide of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution in advance of its television premiere on Independent Lens February 16th.

Don't see a screening in your area? Click here to learn how to TUGG the film to you!

February 23


AMC Loews Georgetown 14 & IMAX

Washington, DC

February 24


John F. Germany Public Library - Indie Lens Pop-Up

Tampa, FL

February 25


Cinema Cafe - Greenbrier Mall - TUGG

Chesapeake, VA

February 25


Santikos Silverado 16

San Antonio, TX

February 25


Regal Waterford Lakes Stadium 20 & IMAX

Orlando, FL

February 29


Sie FilmCenter - TUGG

Denver, CO

February 29 


Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library - Indie Lens Pop-Up

Tampa, FL

March 2


Sie FilmCenter - TUGG

Denver, CO

March 3


Regal North Hills Stadium 14 - TUGG

Raleigh, NC

March 3


Showcase Cinemas Bridgeport - TUGG

Bridgeport, CT


Previous Screenings

Sundance Film Festival

San Francisco Int'l 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

Santa Barbara Int'l Film Fest Series

Cambridge Film Festival

Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent Film

Space Gallery

Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival

Sydney Underground Film Festival

Northwest Film Forum

Webster Film Series

AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9

Landmark Kendall Square

Cable Car Cinemas

AMC White Marsh 16

Landmark Nuart

CCA Santa Fe

Gene Siskel Film Center

Digital Gym Cinema

O Cinema Wynwood

Austin Film Society

Montreal International Black film Festival

Milwaukee Film Festival

Regent Theatre

Sundance Sunset Theatre

AMC Crestwood

Smith Rafael Film Center

Images Cinema

Charles Theater

West Newton Cinema

Festival do Rio

Detroit Film Theater

Time and Space Limited

Landmark Ritz Bourse

Lagoon Cinema

Jacob Burns Film Center

Naro Cinema

Real Art Ways

Laemmle Playhouse 7

Laemmle Claremont

The Little Theater

E Street Cinema

Hollywood Theater

Moxie Cinema

Lyric Cinema Cafe

Bandwidth Theater

Old Greenbelt Theater

Burning Books Buffalo

Magic Lantern Theater

Film Forum

Midtown Art

Angelika Pop-Up


Rag Tag Cinema

Upstate Films

MOCA North Miami

The Neon

UNC Asheville

Movies That Matter

Bundy Museum of Art

Jackson University

Vermont Int'l Film Festival

The Nickelodeon

Art Theater

Amherst Cinema

Film Streams Omaha


Landmark Piedmont

Capri Theater

Loft Cinema

Columbia University

Laemmle Royal

Virginia Film Festival

Teaneck Int'l Film Festival

Opera Plaza Cinema

Shattuck Cinemas

River Oaks Theater

Pelham Picturehouse

Gateway Film Center

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Three Rivers Film Festival

Light of the World Christian Church

Sam Houston State University

Studio on the Square

Cucularos Film Festival

Sembene Film Festival

WUD Film Committee

Bermuda Docs


Guild Cinema

Easton Premiere Cinema

Stockholm Int'l Film Festival

Smithsonian's Film Forum


Angelika Dallas

The Roxie

Videodrome 2

Studio Movie Grille Chatham

Hamptons Take 2 Film Festival

New Parkway


Nashville Public Library

African Diaspora Film Festival

Regent Theater

AMC Loews Newport Centre

Studio Movie Grill Arlington

UA King of Prussia Stadium 16

Sie Film Center

Tivoli Cinemas

Theater N

Coronado Film Festival

Studio Movie Grill EpiCenter

Grand Cinema

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Black Cinema House

Stony Brook

Metro Cinema

Carlton Cinema

Vancity Theater 

AMC Crossroads Mall 16

AMC Loews Georgetown 14 & IMAX


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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Photo Gallery

Press Reviews



Press Notes

"EXCELLENT. What is clear from from this sober yet electrifying film is that the power of the Panthers was rooted in their insistence - radical then, radical still - that black lives matter." 

-A.O. Scott, The New York Times

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

-Stuart Klawans, The Nation

"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

"Stunning...Stanley Nelson's best work to date." 


"Bravely dives into a complex subject that elicits conflicting feelings nearly half a century later — and the result is a nuanced and informative portrait that provides a strong connection with current times."

-Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle


See All Reviews


Booking, General Distribution and Partnership Inquiries:



Schools, colleges, museums requesting copies for campus screenings and libraries

Visit for institutional screening license

Price: $250.00

Personal use

Visit for home video purchases

Price: $19.95

Non-theatrical public screening (requests for public screenings)

Contact to negotiate payment and fulfillment

Price: $500.00 (for screening rights)

Digital downloads

Visit Black Panthers itunes page

Price: $12.99