“In 1976, after years of mysterious absence, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) returns to the Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age in the midst of the Black Power movement. While his arrival raises suspicion among his family and former neighbors, he finds acceptance from his old friend Patricia (Kerry Washington) and her daughter. However, Marcus quickly finds himself at odds with the organization he once embraced, whose members suspect he orchestrated the slaying of their former comrade-in-arms. In a startling sequence of events, Marcus must protect a secret that could shatter everyone’s beliefs, as he rediscovers his forbidden passion for Patricia.” www.nightcatchesus.com/
Throughout the film, historical pieces of propaganda are brought to forefront of the audience. The Klan-ish resemblance of some ghosts in an old Popeye cartoon will make you cock your head to the side. The Philly town is depicted with an eerie resemblance to post-riot Ferguson and Baltimore. One of the most powerful pieces of propaganda, though, was the “Black Panther Coloring Book.” The coloring book depicts crooked police officers, the proverbial “White Man,” and engorged pigs as one in the same. The Black characters in the book are depicted as powerful, menacing, and militarized. They are always wielding large knives or cocked guns at the Pigs. The depiction of these characters can be seen in the following photos from the coloring books courtesy of www.vice.com
These coloring books may seem to hype up the Black Man as protectors, using any means necessary to keep oppression out of their communities. The comics openly depict the oppressors as drooling, stupid hairy pigs. In “Night Catches Us,” one of the main characters finds some of these comics. He is enchanted with the mystic prowess the Black characters exhibit while protecting their community. Marcus quickly tries to snap him out of this misguided haze. Comics like the “Black Power Coloring Book” were not propaganda from the Panthers—they were propaganda to fight the Panthers. Marcus reminds us that these comics were intended to depict Black men, and the community as a whole, as unruly, violent, and determined to kill white people. These comics were dispersed to white families to raise their fear of black militants like the Panthers. They were supposed to enlighten white people to the way Black people supposedly felt about them: seeing white people, especially authoritative white people, as disgusting animals in need of slaughter. This dangerous propaganda fed into the societal notion that Black people were dangerous and out to get white folks. The comics also portrayed to white people that Black Panthers were raising young Black kids to see all white people in a negative light—as if the Panthers were breeding a new generation of militants to kill of white people.
“Night Catches Us” is an excellent film, and available to view on Netflix. We don’t recommend it for a Netflix and chill date, though, unless you’re both into watching advocacy and ‘60s militarism like I am.