A powerful and visceral documentary, 1971's The Murder Of Fred Hampton is a portrait of the young rising star of the Black Panthers, filmed at the time of his assassination by Chicago police. Filmmakers Mike Gray and Howard Alk were in the middle of filming a documentary about Hampton and the Chicago Black Panther Party's community organizing when Hampton was shot to death by police while sleeping. Since the police never bothered to seal off Hampton's apartment, the filmmakers and Panthers could walk in and film the scene of the murder, which they juxtapose with the official report to show how transparently false the police's cover-up was. The film ended up being crucial in exposing said cover-up, and is still sadly relevant today.
The apartment footage is haunting and powerful, but even more powerful is the footage of Hampton's last major speech and his day-to-day activism. A brilliant orator and organizer at the age of 21, Hampton turned that speech into an electrifying call to arms. The Murder Of Fred Hampton is an astounding piece of verite filmmaking that captures the revolutionary times it was filmed in through a gritty and raw lens. It screens here in a newly restored 35mm print from the UCLA Film & Television Archive. —Ian Adcock