The Black Panthers, BBC Four, Monday, 10pm

Given the events of the last month on both sides of the Atlantic – protests about racism and police brutality in the US, protests about the whitewashing of uncomfortable historical facts pertaining to slavery in the UK – this screening of Stanley Nelson’s 2015 documentary about the Black Panther Party is timely and welcome. If you think you know the history, you probably don’t. If you think you don’t, then you definitely need to learn.

Founded in the mid-1960s, the Panthers flourished in the latter part of the decade and into the early 1970s as a quasi-military self-defence organisation preaching black pride and black revolution. Iconic in look – party members wore black leather jackets and sunglasses, and often carried weapons – and led by brilliant and lively orators such as Huey Newton and Fred Hampton (later murdered by Chicago police while he slept) the party inspired tens of thousands of young black men and women. Predictably for an organisation whose 10-point manifesto included a demand for the end to “police brutality and murder of black people”, the Panthers found themselves quite literally in the crosshairs of both the police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which, fearing the rise of what J Edgar Hoover called “a black Messiah”, schemed against them with all the resources it could muster. From the use of wiretaps to the recruitment of paid informers, those resources were considerable.

Nelson, a New Yorker whose Emmy Award-littered career has been spent documenting the African-American experience, takes a traditional approach to telling the story of the Panthers which results in a measured and scholarly documentary. Events are presented chronologically and the talking heads interviews with ex-Panthers, journalists, policemen and historians, are intercut with archive footage and a wealth of stills photography. One of the most striking of these shows teenage Panther Bobby Hutton standing outside Oakland police headquarters holding a shotgun. It was taken not long before he died, aged 17, in a shoot-out with those same police. Fans of Glasgow band Primal Scream will recognise the image from the cover of their 1997 single, Star.

Nelson is also keen to stress some of the lesser-discussed aspects of the Panthers, such as the breakfast programme they ran for under-privileged black children in the belief that the drive for educational attainment began on a full stomach. The struggle for gender equality within the Panthers is discussed as well, and it helps that some of Nelson’s most high-profile interviewees are women. Among them are Elaine Brown, who stood at the Green Party candidate at the 2008 Presidential election, Ericka Huggins, and Kathleen Cleaver, now a law professor and the ex-wife of Panthers luminary Eldridge Cleaver. We hear the recollections of two former Panthers involved a shootout with police which was televised live, first-hand testimony about the murder by Chicago police of Fred Hampton, a rising star in the Black Panther Party, and there’s room too for a discussion of the visual aesthetic of the Panthers’ newspaper and the vibrant, politically-charged screen-prints of the party’s Minister for Culture, Emory Douglas.

The archive film is culled from various sources, most of it grainy black and white news footage. But Nelson makes liberal use of The Black Panthers, a 25 minute film shot in Oakland in 1969 by the great French New Wave director Agnes Varda. Including a wonderful interview with a super-cool and super-confident Kathleen Cleaver, then just 24 years old, it’s available to watch on the website Vimeo.

Days Of The Bagnold Summer

Now streaming

What better subject for Inbetweeners star Simon Bird in his directorial debut than a story about the difficult relationship between a stroppy suburban teenager and his exasperated single mum? In that sense Bird could be said to be playing it safe, though as his film is based on Joff Winterhart’s much-loved graphic novel of the same name, any mis-steps are likely to be pounced upon. Thankfully there aren’t many: Bird and wife Lisa Owens, who wrote the screenplay, have crafted a considerate, respectful and hugely likeable adaptation complete with a soundtrack by Glasgow band Belle And Sebastian.

Earl Cave stars as 15-year-old Daniel, who lives with his librarian mother Sue (W1A’s Monica Dolan) in some southern English town. His summer holiday was meant to be spent visiting his flaky dad in Florida where he lives with his new (younger) wife, though being flaky, dad cancels at the last moment. And so mother and son are thrown together for a tricky, but ultimately redemptive, Bagnold family summer.