‘Judas And The Black Messiah’: Director Shaka King & DP Sean Bobbitt On Finding Late 1960s Chicago In Cleveland – Sundance Crew Call Podcast

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Anthony D'Alessandro
·2 min read
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The following podcast contains spoilers about Warner Bros.’ Judas and the Black Messiah

One of the features making it into the 2020-21 awards season thanks to the extended qualification period during the pandemic is Warner Bros.’ Judas and the Black Messiah about the FBI’s takedown of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, by informant William O’Neal. J. Edgar Hoover deemed Hampton a radical threat, and the movie follows the FBI’s seduction of African American O’Neal to infiltrate the Chicago Black Panthers, and download them with intimate details about the charismatic Hampton.

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Judas and the Black Messiah opens in theaters and streams on HBO Max on Feb. 12, but it premieres tonight at 6PM PST at the Sundance Film Festival. We spoke with King today about getting the feature off the ground, and his cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, who has lensed the Steve McQueen canon of 12 Years a Slave, Widows, Hunger, and Shame, about recreating late 1960s Chicago complete with cool tans, greens, and an intense camera pacing. King says that a bulk of the pic’s vision was sparked by 500 photographs of Chicago he received, which were bursting with the Kodachrome colors of the time. “Panther Green” as King calls it, was a color that the crew kept bumping into their Cleveland, OH location scouts and that became a running motif in the film. So as not to spoil anything, there’s a couple of key action scenes which the DP and the director had to storyboard, one in particular Bobbitt says “was crucial. There are a lot of beats that are historical and to get them right was very important.”

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