After a limited theatrical release this Fall, acclaimed new documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015) will make its television debut on PBS’ Independent Lens on February 16, 2016.
Directed by Stanley Nelson, the film depicts the revolutionary group’s rise and fall, the feature combines 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.
Last year, Nelson told The New York Times of the film’s impeccable timing amid marches for equality across the nation.
“Obviously it felt like the film was becoming more and more relevant,” he said. “But we didn’t consciously set out to make a film that was about today, although it became clearer and clearer that so many things the Panthers were fighting for were things that are still issues today. It’s not only police brutality, it’s substandard schools and substandard housing, the general condition of this country. The connections to today just became clearer. They were always there.”
In a press release, Nelson stated, “I am gratified that PBS has the courage and foresight to bring this film to audiences across the country, and we are thrilled to call them our partners. The Black Panthers made an indelible imprint on American culture and politics. The story of their rise and fall is essential history for understanding the times we live in, and the complicated political dynamics that are still at play.”
“We are delighted to support the work of one of today’s most important independent filmmakers, Stanley Nelson, with whom we have enjoyed a long and productive relationship,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “This film represents the kind of provocative, thoughtful independent filmmaking that has long been at the heart of PBS’ mission, and we are happy to work with PBS Distribution to steward ‘Black Panthers’ through theatrical, broadcast on PBS stations, and on to VOD and home entertainment.”
Amy Letourneau, Vice President, Acquisitions, PBS Distribution, added, “Stanley Nelson’s films reveal iconic moments in American history from the perspective of those who where there, from ‘Freedom Riders’ to ‘Jonestown’ to ‘Wounded Knee.’ Nearly 50 years after the founding of the Black Panther Party, we think this powerful film is extremely timely, and therefore will resonate with a wide audience.”
The Black Panthers began its festival run with world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. PBS Distribution then gave the the documentary a limited theater run starting with New York City in July.
The film was produced by director Nelson and Laurens Grant under Firelight Films.
Learn more at IndependentLens, and check out the trailer and new clips below.