‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ | Anatomy of a Scene


My name is Shaka King. I am the co-writer, director, and one of the producers of Judas and the Black Messiah. This scene happens pretty early in the movie. William O’Neal, played by Lakeith Stanfield, just used a fake FBI badge to steal a car and be arrested for it. And here he meets FBI agent Roy Mitchell, played by Jesse Plemons. The first shot we saw before was of O’Neal’s feet and blood seemingly falling from where you don’t know. It could be from his face. It could be out of his hands. And it’s a leap in time. You didn’t see the attack on O’Neal. And with us we tried to determine as early as possible that this is a film that won’t give you much information. it won’t hold your hand in any way through this experience. We want you, the viewer, to fill the gaps with your imagination as much as possible. Because ideally, we believe that it puts you in the perspective of the person in the film. This scene is one of the most important scenes in the film as it highlights a key factor that we want to convey to the audience. In many ways, this scene is about the danger of being apolitical. We really wanted to bring the old sentence home. If you stand for nothing, everything will fall for you. “Were you upset when Dr. King was murdered?” “What?” “Were you upset when Dr. King was murdered?” ” I dont know.” We see William O’Neal asked by Roy Mitchell how he felt after the assassination of Martin Luther King. O’Neal admits it bothered him a little. And then when Mitchell asked how he felt about Malcolm X’s murder and said O’Neal, I never really thought about it. And you can see that Roy Mitchell smiles a little in response to that question because he found the person he thinks is a perfect informant. In terms of how we used the close-ups, I knew we wanted to save our most extreme close-ups for O’Neal’s gaze in the end. That’s a pleading look to get me out of here. I will do anything to get out of here.



Robert Dunfee