I recently shared my positive thoughts on Django Unchained and now famous Black director Spike Lee has criticized the movie, having not seen it, for turning the subject of slavery into a spaghetti western. This is the kind of oppression of artistic expression BlackNEKS fight against. The idea that subjects are so sacred that they can only be explored from an approved angle ironically kills the subject from ever being talked about. We can’t let Gone with the Wind and the great Roots or derivatives of such be the only explorations of this time period. Thankfully, Lincoln gave us a fresh historical take, but Tarantino is getting a new generation interested in a period they’ve never probably put a single thought into. I’m reminded of mentally and physically disabled character Timmy on the animated show South Park, a character political correctness would say we should respect by ignoring. People would rather never have such a character on a show unless the show is about the disability itself. In a strange way, this aims to keep such people from the public’s eye. I honestly wonder if Spike Lee would have less of a problem with the movie if it was done by a Black director. As a fan of many of Spike’s works, I find it disappointing that such a director known for original and powerful storytelling (see Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X) would become an artistic grump. What bothers me more is that Spike has the power to make movies and can do his own story on slavery at any time. I had a feeling this movie would cause this kind of controversy but say controversy is a good sign of making a significant change of direction.
Either you like Quentin Tarantino or you don’t. Every since he brought Samuel L. Jackson to the screen as a Bible quoting, foulmouth hitman in Pulp Fiction, I have been a fan. To be fair, his movies tend to be on the violent side and are not anything close to family friendly. But his stories, characters, and dialogue are some of the most original to come through Hollywood. And like a whirlwind comes Django Unchained. From Rottentomatoes.com:
Set in the South two years before the Civil War, Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as Django, a slave whose brutal history with his former owners lands him face-to-face with German-born bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Schultz is on the trail of the murderous Brittle brothers, and only Django can lead him to his bounty. Honing vital hunting skills, Django remains focused on one goal: finding and rescuing Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), the wife he lost to the slave trade long ago. Django and Schultz’s search ultimately leads them to Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), the proprietor of “Candyland,” an infamous plantation. Exploring the compound under false pretenses, Django and Schultz arouse the suspicion of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s trusted house slave. — (C) Weinstein
I am excited about this film mainly because every movie which has come near the topic of slavery in America has been handled in very safe, sanitized ways. So no fresh or new stories could come out of this shameful but historic part of the past. Past movies have obvious good characters (the slaves, abolitionist) and obvious bad characters (slavers, plantation owners) and predictable story lines. I hope this is just the start of a new look at this era, the way that The Help brought to life the thoughts and lives of black women working as maids in the 60’s South. The more fresh stories the better.