The film stars Daniel Kaluuya as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton.

By Rachel Yang
December 22, 2020 at 10:16 PM EST
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Credit: Glen Wilson/Warner Bros.

The Daniel Kaluuya-led film Judas and the Black Messiah will debut Feb. 12 in theaters and on HBO Max, Warner Bros. announced Tuesday.

That means the drama about Black Panther leader Fred Hampton will bow in time to be eligible for the 2021 Oscars. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has pushed the ceremony by two months to April 25 and extended the release date eligibility window through Feb. 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Judas and the Black Messiah was originally slated for release in August, but also postponed due to the pandemic.)

In the film, FBI informant William O'Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and is tasked with keeping tabs on its charismatic leader, chairman Fred Hampton (Kaluuya). The activist was killed at 21 during an FBI raid of his home in 1969. He had been fed a barbiturate earlier that evening by O'Neal, whose relationship with Hampton is explored in the drama.

Viewers got a glimpse at Kaluuya as Hampton back in August, when the film's first trailer dropped.

"You can murder a freedom fighter," an impassioned Hampton says in the clip, "but you can't murder freedom."

EW recently spoke with Kaluuya about bringing Hampton's story to life and what it was like to work on a film set more than 50 years ago while watching civil rights protests unfold in the present.

"I don't think it's an accident that this film is coming out at this time. It's going to resonate," the British actor said. "The Black Panthers articulate how people really feel, and there's been an absence of that kind of message in society. The time is opening itself up for that message to be received, because things haven't been laid to rest. People haven't been taken care of. Black people haven't been taken care of."

Directed by Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah is among the upcoming Warner Bros. films that will release simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters, along with Dune, The Matrix 4, The Little Things, Godzilla vs. Kong, and The Suicide Squad.

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