Friday, December 28, 2012

Lincoln or Django?

The two huge cinematic buzzes this holiday season -- Lincoln and Django Unchained -- were movies dealing with race and slavery.

I saw Lincoln and I was utterly in awe of the acting, dialogue and the authenticity of the setting. Steven Spielberg's master piece has Oscars written all over it. His depiction of the 1800s was so detailed that the viewer felt like a time-traveler.

We saw a cagey, warm-hearted, somber and political realist Lincoln portrayed. The main plot centered on how Lincoln -- in the midst of the Civil War -- used all his folksy willing and dealing skills to ratify the 13th Amendment ending de jure American slavery.

I plan to see this film again.

The other movie Django Unchained, I do not plan to see.

Tarantino has created a black superhero in Jamie Foxx’s Django. He’s a freed slave who is good at killing callous white people, exacting vengeance for their specific folly of brutalizing him and his wife, but also living out the fantasy of being the one black man who couldn’t be dehumanized by slavery. source

Director Quentin Taratino is known for his (excuse the pun) pulp fiction like films. His films are usually very gory and lurid. I am not a Spike Lee type Taratino hater, in fact, Pulp Fiction is one of my all time favorite films.

I just believe that slavery and race period films require a certain sensitivity and scholarship that I have yet seen from Taratino. There are too many unhealed wounds to be glib and sensational in presentation.

Being a history buff, I enjoy Hollywood movies that have both entertainment and educational value. We are definitely lacking movies that push us to think on higher levels. Movies with race issues and slavery imagery are far too often shunned in Hollywood.

Taratino and Spielberg have the courage, clout and track record to have their films green lighted. Both directors have a diverse audiences that support their films. But do diverse audiences support black directors who attempt to tackle these same themes. In other words, if Spike Lee makes the exact same film as Taratino would non-blacks support him? Or, would the film be marketed as just a "black movie"?

Apparently, I am not alone in asking the above questions. David Siroto asks and answers the rhetorical question:

Could a black director have made “Django”?

Tarantino's daring film would have been received differently by the media -- or never made -- if he wasn't white.

He reasons:

Film critic Eric Deggans alluded to White Privilege in his terrific Salon piece on “Django Unchained” earlier this week. Noting that ”studios know white audiences will show up for (Tarantino’s) movies,” he concluded that Tarantino is “a white man who gets to do what black artists should also get to do” — but too often do not get the opportunity to do. Why not? Because of the way films by different directors are inevitably portrayed in the media and interpreted by White America.

The best way to illustrate this form of White Privilege is to imagine ”Django Unchained” being released as a production from an African American writer and director. Under those circumstances, in the media and among white audiences, the film most likely would be perceived not merely as a mass-audience entertainment product with some underlying social commentary by a single director, but as a niche political film allegedly from a whole community with an axe to grind. That is, it would probably be met in the media and among potential viewers not in the way it has been met, but instead as a divisive “black movie” — by, and allegedly only for, black people. read entire essay

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