Sean Bobbitt interview: ‘Judas the Black Messiah’ cinematographer
For cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, “Judas and the Black Messiah” is “a very important, powerful, sad, distressing story, but a very timely one as well.” Directed and co-written by Shaka King, the film tells the true story of the FBI infiltration of the Black Panthers and eventual assassination of leader Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya). Watch our exclusive video interview with Bobbitt above.
“My job as a cinematographer I always feel is to interpret the ideas of the director,” Bobbitt explains, and in this case King had “200 still photographs that he wanted to show me,” which were “such a powerful visual touchstone. They informed everything in terms of the overall approach to the look of the film.” Those images helped Bobbitt “create that world of 1968, not in a documentary form, but in maybe a slightly stylized form, and to use that Ektachrome, Kodachrome feel and the vibrancy of the colors of those images as a way of emphasizing the youth, passion and momentum of all these characters.”
He also did his own research, not just to inform his cinematography but to inform his own historical awareness. “It’s a part of American history that I actually know very little about,” admits Bobbitt, who lived overseas during the time period the film depicts, “and as I was educating myself about it, it was very humbling and I felt that I should know this, everyone should know this … That’s why stories like this interest me. I’m fascinated by history. I’m fascinated by humans and what humans do. So it just clicked with me.”