A Huey P. Newton Story
2001 | 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks, Luna Ray Films, BLACK STARZ!, KQED, PBS, and African Heritage Network
In this mesmerizing portrait of the complex co-founder of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, Huey P. Newton’s words still speak profoundly to us today. From unpublished manuscripts, recorded interviews and correspondences, Roger Guenveur Smith developed this brilliant, critically acclaimed stage performance. Sitting alone in the midst of what is at once a stage, a cell, and a podium, Smith explores the public and private turmoil surrounding Newton’s work. As one of the most volatile participants in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, Newton can be seen as a microcosm for issues as diverse as community service and violent actions taken in the name of justice. All the complications, ambiguities, and moral quandaries bound up in America’s ongoing struggle with racism are captured in this virtuoso performance. Period materials and original compositions from Sound Designer Marc Anthony Thompson complement the production. Directed by Spike Lee, the film was shot by Director of Photography Ellen Kuras before a live audience, in a setting that actually resembles the real-life prison room in which Newton was interviewed. In this manner the play is transformed from the stage to the screen in a truly distinctive, intimate, and intense style. This compelling and controversial depiction of a man who was loved and admired, feared and hated, was conceived and written by its star performer Roger Guenveur Smith and produced by Steven Adams, Marc Henry Johnson and Bob L. Johnson. For exploring events from our past in a provocative, challenging and enlightening manner, a Peabody goes to A Huey P. Newton Story.