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Shaka King on the powerful ideals of ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Director Shaka King, left, and Daniel Kaluuya sit on a bench.
Director Shaka King, left, and Daniel Kaluuya on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ ‘Judas and the Black Messiah.’
(Glen Wilson / Warner Bros.)

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen and welcome to the newsletter companion to “The Envelope: The Podcast,” where my cohost, Yvonne Villarreal, and I bring you highlights from each week’s episode.

This has been a busy week already on the awards beat. The BAFTAs, the PGA and the DGA all announced their nominations, which helped to bring this diffuse season into clearer focus.

As Josh Rottenberg pointed out, the winner of the Producers Guild Award has gone on to win the Oscar for best picture 21 of the past 31 years. Which must be considered very good news for the teams behind “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Mank,” “Minari,” “Nomadland,” “One Night in Miami ...,” “Promising Young Woman,” “Sound of Metal” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

That same group of films largely figured in the DGA and BAFTA nominations as well.

And the saga of the Golden Globes and the fallout from The Times’ reporting on the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. continues. The organization announced that it is committing itself to “transformational change,” involving both who is in the group itself and how the HFPA conducts business.

Not everyone was convinced, however. Take filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who tweeted in response to the HFPA’s announcement, “So, the board is gonna oversee its own reform? Same board that oversees and benefits from the current practices and has knowingly perpetuated the HFPA’s corrupt dealings and racial inequity for decades? Got it.”

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Awards columnist Glenn Whipp had his own idea on how to fix the Globes — get rid of them entirely and let a ramped-up SAG Awards take their place.

Daniel Kaluuya, at a podium, and LaKeith Stanfield stand with their right fists raised.
LaKeith Stanfield, front, and Daniel Kaluuya in Warner Bros.’ “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
(Glen Wilson / Warner Bros.)

For this week’s interview, I spoke to Shaka King, director, co-writer and producer of “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Along with Charles D. King and Ryan Coogler, King made history when he was part of the first all-black producing team to be nominated by the PGA.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, the film tells the story of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, killed at the age of 21 in 1969, and the FBI informant who betrayed him. Often playing out as an action thriller, the film shines a light on some of the Panthers’ political positions, delivered with powerful conviction by Kaluuya as Hampton.

“That was a big reason for making the movie,” said King. “There’s no other reason to make the movie. When you read Fred Hampton’s words and you see these ideas that are his ideas but really the Panthers’ platform as an organization, you see how much sense they make and you realize that a lot of these ideas have just been withheld, this idea of what the Panthers really stood for.

“I just felt like it was important to present them in their full holistic greatness,” King added. “I’m saying these are thinkers and philosophers and just brilliant young minds. And we have an opportunity to put that information out there. For me it was like, ‘What’s going to be the sort of candy-coated show to give you this medicine inside?’ The genre elements serve that purpose, but in terms of what the movie is, at its core it’s essentially an exploration of what is a sort of socialist cultural aesthetic versus what is a capitalist cultural aesthetic. And I hope that shines through.”

Thanks for reading/listening/subscribing. We have lots more conversations to come, including Sacha Baron Cohen for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Garrett Bradley for “Time” and Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen for “Another Round.”

Listen to the podcast here and subscribe to “The Envelope: The Podcast” on Apple Podcasts or your podcast app of choice.

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Feedback? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at awards@latimes.com.


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