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Help Stanley Nelson bring the story of the Black Panther Party to theaters across the country.
Help Stanley Nelson bring the story of the Black Panther Party to theaters across the country.
954 backers pledged $62,745 to help bring this project to life.

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The Black Panthers Theatrical Release

$62,745

954

Update: We've reached our goal with a week to go! Let's dream bigger. More money means we can expand to more cities like St. Louis, Cleveland and Ferguson!

Audience Award Best of Fest - RiverRun International Film Festival

"An essential history, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, is a vibrant, human, living and breathing chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America."- Sundance Institute

"Unyielding in its exploration of Black Panther pride, confrontations and in-fighting, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is a documentary that uses rare footage to chronicle the explosive movement in a most comprehensive way."  - NBC News

"A thrilling, comprehensive history of the revolutionary movement that transformed race and class in America, told through meticulous research and astonishing archival materials by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and Emmy Award winner Stanley Nelson." Museum of Modern Art

"The moment is right for a documentary history of the Panthers." - NY Times

THE FILM

THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION is the first feature length documentary to showcase the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader Americans culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails.

Veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson (FREEDOM RIDERS, FREEDOM SUMMER, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLES TEMPLE, THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL) goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure 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.


FROM DIRECTOR STANLEY NELSON

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 had never been told in its entirety. There is so much we think we know about the Party but I wanted to go beyond the oversimplified narrative of the Panthers as prone to violence and consumed with anger, and explore why so many people joined, what they accomplished, and why it fell apart.

Producer Laurens Grant, former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver with Director Stanley Nelson
Producer Laurens Grant, former Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver with Director Stanley Nelson

After years of hard work we were thrilled to premiere the film at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The film has gone on to sold-out screenings at festivals in Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The response so far has been amazing, but we have bigger goals for the film.

Kathleen Cleaver at the Sundance Film Festival
Kathleen Cleaver at the Sundance Film Festival

I made this film with the hope that it would reach diverse audiences - folks who might not attend film festivals or watch PBS.

That is why I am launching this Kickstarter campaign. My goal is to raise $50,000 to support a theatrical release of the film.

In my 20 plus years of independent filmmaking, I've had great success in premiering eight films at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as numerous national PBS broadcasts. However, theatrical releases have always been a challenge, not only for me, but also for the majority of independent documentary filmmakers. Between the high costs of booking and promotion, and the bare bones budgets for indie films, getting a documentary into theaters is next to impossible. I believe this film will be even more powerful on the big screen, where people can share the experience with their peers, youth, elders and other community members who recall that turbulent time. So, in the spirit of the Black Panthers I am taking our cause to the people!

WHY THE STORY OF THE BLACK PANTHERS NOW?

"The issues that the Black Panther Party and other Black Power organizations dealt with in the 1960s continue to be the major issues confronting the black community today...The film is a must-see for all who are looking to better understand where we are at this historical moment and where we might go in the future." - Pan African Film Festival

Black Lives Matter protest
Black Lives Matter protest

When people see the film they tell us the same thing, "This film could not have come at a better time."

For us this Kickstarter campaign is about more than just getting into theaters, it's about sparking a national conversation on the conditions that created the Black Panther Party, conditions - like police violence, substandard education, joblessness - that continue to plague us today.

As we witness the similarities between the injustices of yesterday and the tragedies of today, we feel a sense of urgency to share the story of the Black Panther Party. We are struck by the way today's movement around police brutality and accountability is being led by young people seeking change, just as it was with the Black Panther Party almost 50 years ago. We believe we can reach a greater number of young people from diverse communities by bringing the film to theaters across the country.

Ultimately, we want to bring this vibrant chapter in American history to life so that we can all understand it, learn from it and make better decisions - personally and collectively.

WHO IS ON BOARD?

We are fortunate to have the support of an amazing group of organizations and individuals who believe the film needs a wide audience. 

HOW WE WILL USE THE FUNDS

Our plan is to open theatrically in at least thirteen cities - New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Seattle and Washington D.C. PBS Distribution is financially supporting the limited theatrical distribution of the film this fall, so monies raised through this Kickstarter campaign will fund additional promotional support for these screenings. 

With 50k we can pay pay for:

  • Music rights for the theatrical version of the film
  • Targeted online and print advertising in the thirteen cities
  • Seasoned publicist with experience reaching young people and communities of color
  • Travel costs to bring Black Panthers to screenings

If we exceed our fundraising goal we can expand our list of target cities and deepen our promotional efforts! 

THE BLACK PANTHERS will air as a special presentation of INDEPENDENT LENS on PBS in early 2016, but we want to bring the big screen experience to as many communities as possible through a theatrical release.

REWARDS

As thanks for your tax-deductible support we are offering some great rewards; like a private streaming link to view the film, limited edition Black Panther merchandise, tickets to theatrical openings, Google chats with former Panthers like Kathleen Cleaver, signed prints by former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, DVD box set of my films, and a filmmaking master class in my Harlem studio.

Limited Edition Black Panther T-Shirt
Limited Edition Black Panther T-Shirt
Limited Edition Black Panther T-Shirt
Limited Edition Black Panther T-Shirt
Viper Records artist Immortal Technique Combo Pack
Viper Records artist Immortal Technique Combo Pack
Signed copy of "One Crazy Summer" by author, Rita Williams-Garcia
Signed copy of "One Crazy Summer" by author, Rita Williams-Garcia
Signed copy of "Panther Baby" by author, Jamal Joseph
Signed copy of "Panther Baby" by author, Jamal Joseph
Film Poster
Film Poster
Three unique, signed, limited edition, color prints  designed by former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas.
Three unique, signed, limited edition, color prints designed by former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas.
Signed, black and white photos from legendary civil rights photographer Jeffrey Blankfort
Signed, black and white photos from legendary civil rights photographer Jeffrey Blankfort
Signed, black and white photo from legendary civil rights photographer Jeffrey Blankfort
Signed, black and white photo from legendary civil rights photographer Jeffrey Blankfort
Signed and numbered 16x20 portrait of Marshall "Eddie" Conway
Signed and numbered 16x20 portrait of Marshall "Eddie" Conway
Signed and numbered 1976 photograph of Kathleen Cleaver by Ilke Hartmann
Signed and numbered 1976 photograph of Kathleen Cleaver by Ilke Hartmann
Signed and numbered 1970 photograph of teen with "Black is Beautiful" jacket by Ilke Hartmann
Signed and numbered 1970 photograph of teen with "Black is Beautiful" jacket by Ilke Hartmann
Original, 48x48" oil and acrylic portrait of LA chapter founder Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter.
Original, 48x48" oil and acrylic portrait of LA chapter founder Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter.

With your tax-deductible support we can bring this powerful story to theaters across the country.

Thank you for your support. And as the Panthers would say, 'All Power To The People!'

http://theblackpanthers.com/

Follow the film on Facebook 

Like the film on twitter 

#BlackPantherDoc

Detroit Panther member
Detroit Panther member

Risks and challenges

Since most of our experience is with television broadcasts, we are new to theatrical releases. We believe this film will do well theatrically, but we cannot guarantee that we will open in all of our target cities. We have the support of PBS Distribution and Long Shot Factory who are experienced in these matters and we are confident that we can make it happen.

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    Virtual Fist Bump + Film Button

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    Enhanced Film Transcript + Virtual Fist Bump

    In addition to the virtual fist bump on Facebook or twitter, you will receive an enhanced transcript of the finished film. The transcript, brimming with footnotes pointing to source materials, is a wonderful resource for educators, students, film buffs, and people wishing to learn more about the Black Panthers.

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    Limited Edition T-Shirt + Button

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    3 pairs of tickets for the premiere at the International Film Festival of Boston - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the Massachusetts premiere at the International Film Festival of Boston on April 27 featuring a Q&A with producer Laurens Grant and Kathleen Cleaver!

    Must provide own transportation to the Boston screening. Pledges toward this reward will receive their tickets at will-call on April 27.

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    Two tickets tickets for the premiere at the Maryland Film Festival - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the Maryland Film Festival on May 9.

    Must provide own transportation to the Baltimore screening. Pledges toward this reward will receive their tickets at will-call on May 9.

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    Limited Edition Tote Bag or Film Poster

    You can choose between a limited edition, natural cloth Tote Bag or a 22x28" Black Panther film poster.

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    Private Link to Stream Film + Online Q&A

    You will be among the first people to see the film when you receive a private streaming link this fall, plus a link to participate in an exclusive, interactive, online Q&A with director Stanley Nelson and former Black Panthers.

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    Pair of 2 Tickets for BROTHERS FROM THE BOTTOM starring Wendell Pierce

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to see Wendell Pierce (Selma, The Wire, Treme) star in the gripping play, BROTHERS FROM THE BOTTOM, about gentrification in post-Katrina New Orleans. The tickets can be used during the premiere run at the Lupin Theater in New Orleans between June 10-28.

    Must provide own transportation to Lupin Theater in New Orleans.

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    Black Panther Combo Pack - JUST ADDED!

    You will receive four premium items in this Combo Pack: Completed DVD, T-Shirt, Button, and Tote Bag.

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    Signed Panther Book + Film Poster

    Choose between a copy of Newbery Honoree novel, “One Crazy Summer” signed by New York Times bestselling author (and former Free Breakfast Program participant) Rita Williams- Garcia or a copy of autobiographical memoir, “Panther Baby” signed by former NY Black Panther member and Columbia University Professor Jamal Joseph. You will also receive a 22x28" Black Panther film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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    Signed DVD + Private Q&A

    You will receive a copy of the finished film on DVD autographed by director Stanley Nelson plus a link to participate in an exclusive, interactive, online Q&A with director Stanley Nelson and former Black Panthers including Kathleen Cleaver and Emory Douglas.

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    Signed Photograph of Kathleen Cleaver

    You will receive a signed and numbered 11x15 photograph (on a 12x18 board) portrait of Kathleen Cleaver. The portrait of Cleaver at a 1976 rally for Dennis Banks was taken by legendary photographer Ilke Hartmann. The photo will come with a limited edition film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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    Signed Photograph of "Black is Beautiful"

    You will receive a signed and numbered 11x15 photograph (on a 12x18 board) photograph of a teenager at a 1970 Panther rally in San Francisco with "Black is Beautiful" written on his jacket. The photograph was taken by legendary photographer Ilke Hartmann shortly before they were both arrested. The photo will come with a limited edition film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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    Signed Emory Douglas Print + Film Poster - JUST ADDED!

    You will receive one of three signed color prints designed by former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas. Each print will come with a limited edition film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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    Black Panther Power Pack

    You will receive a pack of premium items: Signed DVD, Signed Film Poster, Button, Tote Bag, Box Set of Stanley Nelson films, and the link to the exclusive Google Chat with Director Stanley Nelson and former Black Panthers.

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    Bring Stanley Nelson to Your School or Organization

    2013 National Humanities Medal honoree and Emmy award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (FREEDOM SUMMER, FREEDOM RIDERS, THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL) will come to your school or organization, screen a Firelight film of your choice and speak with your members about his filmmaking process and career.

    You must cover travel and one night of accommodations for the director, and costs for the venue.

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    Original Portrait of Black Panther Member, Bunchy Carter

    Become the proud owner of an original, 48x48" oil and acrylic portrait of LA chapter founder Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter. " Painted by former L.A. Panther, Muhammad Mubarak, this portrait was painted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the LA Panthers. Mr. Mubarak's artwork is owned by such sports and music luminaries as Oscar De La Hoya, Don King, Mike Tyson, Magic Johnson, Denzel Washington, and Floyd Mayweather.

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    Private Master Class with Stanley Nelson

    Come to director Stanley Nelson's studio in Harlem, NYC for a private, two-hour master class on filmmaking. Stanley will share insight and highlights from his decades-long career, offer filmmaking tips and share "director's cut" notes from his past films.

    Must provide own transportation and housing in NYC.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in one of the following cities: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles or Chicago, plus an opportunity to meet the director or producer.

    Must provide own transportation to screening location.

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    DVD Signed by Stanley Nelson

    You will receive the finished DVD for your personal viewing and home collection once it becomes available.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in San Francisco - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in San Francisco, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

    Must provide own transportation to screening location.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in Washington, D.C - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in San Francisco, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in Seattle - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in Seattle, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in Atlanta - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in San Francisco, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in Los Angeles - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in San Francisco, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

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    2 Tickets to Theatrical Premiere in Oakland - JUST ADDED!

    You and a guest will receive a ticket to the theatrical premiere in San Francisco, plus an opportunity to meet the director, producer or Black Panther.

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    Virtual Mentorship from Stanley Nelson

    Got a film idea or work-in-progress? Veteran filmmaker Stanley Nelson will review up to 20-minutes of your rough cut or read 15 pages of your screenplay and offer detailed notes, advice and feedback. This is an incredible opportunity to vet your film with a master filmmaker!

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    Virtual Mentorship from Byron Hurt

    Filmmaker Byron Hurt (HIP HOP: BEYOND BEATS AND RHYMES, SOUL FOOD JUNKIES, HAZING: HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IN?) will share tips and strategies around fundraising for docs, treatment writing, how to leverage the speaker circuit, and how to maximize the impact of your film over a 30-minute personal Skpye session. This is a great opportunity to get best practices from a talented and respected filmmaker and lecturer!

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    Immortal Technique Combo Pack - JUST ADDED!

    Viper Records artist Immortal Technique is a legend in the hip-hop circuit. Take home a collection of items including two two-shirts, autographed blue and red vinyls of Revolution I & II and one copy of the movie (R)Evolution of Immortal Technique.

    Only one available!

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    Box Set of Stanley Nelson Classics

    You will receive a set of five classic films from the Firelight archives, each delivered with a personal note of thanks from director Stanley Nelson.

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    Reward no longer available 15 backers
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    Signed Emory Douglas or Jeffrey Blankfort Print + Film Poster

    You will receive one of three signed, limited edition, color prints designed by former Minister of Culture Emory Douglas, or one of two signed, black and white photos from legendary civil rights photographer Jeffrey Blankfort. Each print will come with a limited edition film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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    Signed Photograph of Black Panther Member, Marshall "Eddie" Conway

    You will receive a signed and numbered 16x20 photograph portrait of Marshall "Eddie" Conway, a Baltimore Black Panther Party member who was incarcerated for 44 years and released in 2014. The portrait, taken by Maryland photographer J.M. Giordano, was part of a series called Struggle: Portraits of the Civil Rights and Black Power Eras. The photo will come with a limited edition film poster signed by director Stanley Nelson.

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Funding period

- (30 days)