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One S & A Reader's Take After Seeing 'Django Unchained'

by Sergio
December 2, 2012 10:51 AM
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As I mentioned last week, media and award consideration screenings for Django Unchained start later this week; but there have already been a few advance screenings of the film for specially-invited audiences, one of whom is an LA-based filmmaker whose work weve profiled on this site, and who is also a regular reader of S & A.

He saw the film last night at a screening, with Quentin Tarantino present, and what he says I think is pretty interesting, making me even more excited (as if I wasn't already) to see the film; here you go:

"I know how anticipated this film is for a lot of Shadow and Act readers...and so I had to share this with you. Just came from a screening of Django. I went in wanting to hate that movie. Based on the script I read back in the summer of 2011 I was not optimistic. This film deals with slavery one of the ugliest atrocities America ever committed. To show too little would make it come off safe like the Help. To show too much would make it come off as being excessive. Like the use of the N-word in most of Tarantino's films."

"From the first frame, it is obvious that the film is a homage to spaghetti westerns like The Good The bad and the ugly. Images of African American men in chains is hard to take. It triggered in me, thoughts on just how bad it was for us during that time. The powerlessness, the victimization, the demeaning, all lead you to hating this movie. But you can't look away. Instead you take this ride with Django.  He transforms from a slave to a free man to a gun slinger and Jamie pulls it off effortlessly."

"The acting all around was stellar. This all star team of actors definitely showed up. Leonardo did his thing as Candy. I wouldn't call him a villain, slavery was probably the villain, characters like candy were just men doing business. I guess that's why it is so impacting. Realizing that it isn't a personal affront. A black person was no different than a cow or goat."

"I digress... The character that stands head and shoulders above everyone else is Stevens, played by Sam Jackson. Talk about crabs in a bucket. His character reminded me that some blacks kept blacks down harder than anybody."

"As westerns go, this film is more action based which makes sense. At 160 minutes its long but it moves unlike the sleep inducing film Lincoln and Order. There are some lighter moments, most I wasn't laughing at but the audience seemed to get in to. I couldn't let my guard down enough to enjoy those moments,too busy thinking about what my ancestors dealt with that allowed me to sit here, educated, and able to write this."

"At its foundation, the film is about a man doing what ever it takes to get his woman. Like I said, I wanted to hate this film but I can't. It is a solid piece that does not let whites off the hook. I saw it in an audience of 95% white and they seemed to have realized just how fucked up slavery was. During the q and a after, Tarantino admitted how fucked up.slavery was and how it still affects this country."

"it's a polarizing film that isn't for everybody. Based on the discussions thus far, the film will trigger even more discussion. Tarantino said that there are thousands of great stories to tell from that era and hopes this will lead to more. I don't know if I want to see too many films dealing with slavery but with Django, black folks will have someone to root for, that is a straight up bad ass."

So does his review change the minds for anyone who had any doubts, or are they still there?

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  • Dread | December 9, 2012 1:57 AMReply

    Tarantino is another delusional white guy who either hates himself because he is white or thinks he is a savior of the black man by his bold (and ignorant) anti-white sentiments. Bigots are the same no matter what their skin color. Tarantinos movies just get worse the more he tries to push his lame agenda. Don't waste your money on Django. Jamie Foxx sucks anyway.

  • Carl | December 9, 2012 2:04 AM

    Well since you say so it must be true. STFU.

  • James Nelson | December 3, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    I've been curiously watching the course of Django since it was first announced. I was and am curious as to how audiences are going to react to it. If one infrequent surfs the net looking for articles on the state of Black filmmakers and stories about Black characters, where people voice their dissatisfaction at how Hollywood handles race. You will see lots of ire from white filmgoers saying that "race of characters don't matter", that we're only 17% of the population so why would we expect to have more representation in film, but the one that gets me is, "If you don't like the Hollywood presentation of Blacks why don't you make your own films? This statement on the surface seems fair enough, but it doesn't touch upon the fact that mainstream audiences judge films entirerly different depending on the filmmakers involved. My question is would anyone have even considered making Django, or a film similar to it if a Black director or screenwriter had proposed it? Would it even be getting half the attention it's getting now? And why is it that Django isn't considered a "Black" film when done by Quentin, but it most certainly would be relegated to that status if a Black director had done it? As for Django spurring a lot of copycats, I'm not really worried about that, not even bad copycats as far as history goes the only time a successful Black film spurred a genre was Sweet Sweetback, and Hollywood has shown no interest in jumpstarting any time of Black film movement even with a successful film to prove it can be done.

  • ALM | December 5, 2012 5:45 AM

    @ James: What an amazing post. Great comments, especially the one regarding the fact that "Django" would have been considered a "Black" film if the sole element that changed was who is in the director's seat. Also, if a Black person made the film, rest assured the phrases "race card" and "bringing up the past" would have also been added to the conversation by critics.

  • Bee | December 3, 2012 11:25 PM

    The best comments on this post. Thank you for such thoughtful responses!

  • monkeysuit | December 3, 2012 4:54 PM

    Most white people are living in a dream world where everyone thinks and acts how they pretend to think and act and their privilege was earned solely through merit and hard work. They don't want to face the cold reality that their race is a factor in their success. The same way our race is a factor in what keeps so few of us in the Hollywood elite. If a black director as big and successful as Tarantino had proposed such a film, it's hard to say whether or not it would have been backed, because there are so few black directors that have made it to his status. I inclined to say yes, given the long career that Spike Lee has had. And I know some of you will cry "Red Hook Summer," but you have to understand where Spike is right now and the audience a film like that is targeting. A slave spaghetti western sounds more appealing than a coming-of-age story about a black boy in BK. The problem is there are too many roadblocks that keep black filmmakers from reaching the point that Tarantino is at.

  • monkeysuit | December 3, 2012 2:17 PMReply

    It's crazy to me how fiercely anti-Tarantino people are because of the one "dead nigger" monologue. So me, as a woman, should I be anti-Spike Lee because of the downplayed rape scene in "She's Gotta Have It?" There ain't an artist in the world whose work doesn't contain some problematic elements. At least not a good one. That's not a reason to completely write them off especially when you have an artist like Tarantino whose work as a whole contains more complex and well-developed black characters than any other white Hollywood director. So can y'all at least watch the movie (with an open mind) before you start firing off? As a side note, I hope Spike Lee watches it, gets pissed and decides to produce his own slave film like he did with "Miracle at St. Anna." Except this time its good.

  • Bee | December 3, 2012 11:25 PM

    "I hope Spike Lee watches it, gets pissed and decides to produce his own slave film like he did with "Miracle at St. Anna." Except this time its good." I totally agree!

  • Donella | December 3, 2012 6:00 PM

    I'm thinking A Soldier's Story (Denzel), The Hurricane (Denzel), In the Heat of the Night (Sidney Poitier). Maybe it's a generational thing.

  • tarantinofan | December 3, 2012 5:16 PM

    So ppl dont have a problem with actual racism, but they get outraged by a line in a movie?

    Yep, sounds like america to me, the most racist country in this world.

  • monkeysuit | December 3, 2012 4:41 PM

    I would say yeah. Jewison has Denzel in "Hurricane" and Whoopi Goldberg in "Bogus." Tarantino has Grier and Jackson in "Jackie Brown," Jackson and Rhames in "Pulp Fiction," Dawson and Tracie Thomas in Deathproof, and now Jamie Fox, Kerry Washington and Jackson in Django. I could be wrong, but I really can't think of another mainstream white director with as many memorable black characters under his/her belt.

  • Donella | December 3, 2012 3:50 PM

    More than Norm Jewison? That's an amazing perspective.

  • Donella | December 3, 2012 1:07 PMReply

    A screening for "specially-invited audiences." Was this the director's guild screening? Not sure of the demographics for film but DGA membership for television directors breaks down--73% Caucasian Male; 13% Minority Male; 11% Caucasian Female; 4% Minority Female. Looks like a case of the producers attempting their very best to gin up selective feedback.

  • B | December 3, 2012 1:01 PMReply

    To be honest this review is why I have a problem with this movie. People who don't know enough about the enslavement act as if this is a documentary. It's not.
    "Talk about crabs in a bucket. His character reminded me that some blacks kept blacks down harder than anybody."
    What? SMH.
    I will see the movie for free by renting from the library.

  • AccidentalVisitor | December 3, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    This review told me nothing other than he liked it better than he thought he would and that he found "Lincoln" to be boring.

  • gerard kennelly | December 3, 2012 1:24 AMReply

    i have the script

    anybody want to hear spoilers ? ? ... :)

  • AccidentalVisitor | December 3, 2012 12:57 PM

    No, but I would love to see the script. :)

  • Orville | December 3, 2012 1:23 AMReply

    I am guessing the American media are going to compare Django Unchained to the other slave era film Lincoln? Lincoln by the way is doing very well at the box office and making a lot of money. The reviewer didn't mention Kerry Washington's role in the film I thought she had a big part in the movie.

  • Nicole | December 2, 2012 4:52 PMReply

    This movie is already stirring up various emotions. I'll definitely have to see it for myself.

  • jacetoon | December 2, 2012 4:11 PMReply

    David Manning said it's "must see". First the giggling slave girls now the slave master wasn't bad he was just a product of his times and the real villain is another slave because they really kept other slaves down. This is an evil amoral movie but it is expected. I won't be organizing any boycotts (worthless) or writing any long soliloquies about this movie but I will be very interested to see how many black bloggers (and movie goers) support this movie because of the promise of muzzled heroics from a black male lead. You know scraps in a cesspool.

  • Tarantinofan | December 3, 2012 5:13 PM

    Its amazing how small-minded ppl really are. You dont wanna see a movie cause it might have a black guy who is "evil" (the definition of this word is another issue)? How the hell did u survive the 70s then?
    First of all this is a tarantino movie, dont expect any historic accuracy. He killed Hitler in 1944 for his movie, so....
    I can only imagine how small your self-confidence must be.

  • B | December 3, 2012 2:01 PM

    nodding @ the giggling slave girls now the slave master wasn't bad he was just a product of his times and the real villain is another slave because they really kept other slaves down.

  • jacetoon | December 3, 2012 5:03 AM

    At the end of the day I click my heels together and repeat It's just a movie. It will open, make a ton of money ( I think It will do big in Europe) and another movie will open the next weekend.

  • gerard kennelly | December 3, 2012 1:29 AM

    i read the script
    it is uplifting... trust me
    perfect cinema funny exciting scary and cool as ice
    dicaprio is NOT the bad guy he did some bad stuff but he is not the villain
    the only character i hated was the house slave (samuel L jackson)

    deep down he is the real evil all he wants is to see people get hurt


    dicaprio gets killed by christoph waltz in the exact same way
    alfred molina tried to kill mel gibson on the river boat poker game at the end of MAVERICK

  • jacetoon | December 2, 2012 5:27 PM

    Nope dogs get mad but it's always a good thing to know what current content producers think on the subject. Some of us, well at least I, have stories from our parents, grandparents and great grandparents about the time period and when you hear from elected officials ( and apparently you) that hey it wasn't that bad, school's re writing school books to tell lies about the time period and a top 10 country act whose name yearns for those by gone days of the antebellum south. Then you're damn right (see what I did there) I'm angry.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 2, 2012 4:24 PM

    You mad? lol

  • Nadia | December 2, 2012 3:20 PMReply

    Snooze. Let me know when Hollywood makes a Nat Turner movie then we can talk. Then will I say that Hollywood has "balls" speaking to Matty's point about the film being "ballsy." This isn't "ballsy" by any stretch. It's low-hanging fruit. Kudos on making an "entertaining" film about slavery since that's what everyone supporting it seems to be hanging their hats on, but this looks like a retread to me of black and white buddy action films we've already seen, just in a different setting. Give me a Nat Turner movie. Better yet, give me a Nat Turner movie written and directed by a black writer and director then I'll say that Hollywood has balls.

  • Douglas | December 7, 2012 11:07 PM

    Best comment that I've read here. Everytime I see that The Patriot is on television I think about a Nat Turner movie. Thanks Nadia for pointing out what a safe movie this is. Personally I won't watch it, but I'm not a QT fanboy anyway. This movie screams bootleg.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 2, 2012 4:23 PM

    Point taken, but I think Matty was referring to Tarantino in particular -- not Hollywood in general (just sayin').

  • that dude | December 2, 2012 2:11 PMReply

    Haters are gonna hate. I know there are people who are gonna have a hard time letting go of all their carefully culvitated venom for this film, but I applaud this reviewer for having the integrity to judge the film on its own merits. I know there are people who aren't sophisticated enough to see this "entertaining" film is actually smarter than the preachy slavery films that we usually get served up, but some movies can actually do both at the same time.

  • B | December 3, 2012 2:03 PM

    how profound @Haters are gonna hate.

  • that dude | December 2, 2012 3:27 PM

    Haters, the movie isn't selling itself as a filmstrip to learn about slavery. But this reviewer said himself it made him reflect on what he knew and gave insights he didn't know. I'm sure he won't be alone.

  • Haters | December 2, 2012 3:07 PM

    Anyone looking for anything more than entertainment from this flick are kidding themselves. I'm not going to see this film to learn about slavery. If you live in this country and haven't picked up a history book to read up on this country's greatest scar, or haven't heard a little bit about how inhumane it was, and you're going to see a film like this to be educated, you're a moron. I'll take this for the laugh and for the action, and entertainment, then I'll see 12 Years A Slave for the real reflective stuff.

  • TarantinoFan | December 2, 2012 1:55 PMReply

    I dont get it, I dont get why this guy thinks you shouldnt make a film about slavery "cause its hard to watch". Oh really, like we dont see more brutality on every movie, like they dont make War-movies every year .... and oh yeah, "films" like Saw and the other BS.

    Just tell me how good this movie is and keep the other stuff to yourself. Like 95% white audience eh? So you counted? tssss.....

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 2, 2012 4:21 PM

    Agreed. Every few years, Hollywood drops a bomb of "Holocaust films" to remind everyone that, that shit happened. lol Not hating on the Jews; they take "Never Forget" seriously. If only we did -- like all the time -- instead of getting in a huff when one film drops. Everyone with a bad word about this movie (especially if they haven't seen it yet) needs to grab a kid and tow them to the nearest African-American history museum.

  • VichusSmith | December 2, 2012 2:47 PM

    I think there should be tons of films about slaver, fact or ridiculous fiction! You know kids aren't even going to wikipedia to read about America's past, so at least we'd have films that make them face that.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 2, 2012 1:08 PMReply

    I didn't plus one for this film to receive socio-political nourishment. Some of you are doing way too much; it's just a movie -- a spaghetti western homage at that. This filmmaker sounds a little high-strung; either lose yourself in the story or back out of the saloon doors slowly. I did like what he said about the Candy character. Having a degree in History -- with African-American history as one of favorites to research -- I can say that for most slaveowners it really was just business. Slaves were chattel, just like other beasts of burden. Slaves were beaten but rarely maimed or killed and weren't starved (although some had to supplement their diet personally); imagine setting your car on fire or not filling it up with gas because it started too slow yesterday. We could have these kinds of "debates' among us all day long, but let's keep the "Django" experience in perspective. If you think it's disrespectful, don't watch it -- simple. As Matty said, Tarantino's got balls (hate him or love him). That's why his films are so much fun, regardless of the subject matter. Some of you need to hum a spiritual and get on with it. I wonder how the slaves themselves would feel if they got to watch an advance screening (lol).

  • mantan | December 3, 2012 1:48 PM

    @blutopaz well damn! tell 'em how you really feel!!! lololol...

    i'm laughing but that was kind of harsh....

  • BluTopaz | December 2, 2012 5:45 PM

    AST, with that hot garbage you posted a few weeks ago (your webisode, I believe it's called) you reaaaaallllly need to take better notes re: film critiques, instead of lol'ing all over the place about how many Black people feel about the depictions of slavery.

  • Matty Rich | December 2, 2012 12:53 PMReply

    Well, if people are looking for a more serious and thoughtful film about this subject, like Sergio said, they shouldn't be looking through Hollywood's catalog. I enjoyed reading this review and I'll be seeing this film. When's the last time a ballsy film like this was released by Hollywood with a mostly black cast? If we can enjoy demeaning trash like Coffy and Foxy Brown, I see no reason why we can't enjoy something like this, which is also meant to be entertaining.

  • Lars | December 2, 2012 12:51 PMReply

    Well, this is exciting...but for someone who finds Lincoln "sleep-inducing", he loses a lot of credibility to me. I don't know anything about American history, but I was still able to follow the film without falling asleep.

  • willie dynamite | December 2, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Ted, I agree a film that addresses the deep reaching plague of slavery should be made, but tarantino isn't trying to make a film like that, nor is any studio. If you think white folks already understand how bad slavery was, go to Texas, or Mississippi, or Fox News, or look at the reactions to the film The Help like he mentioned. They can't comprehend how bad it was because they have never had to. The oppressed and the oppressor can look at the same thing and see it totally differently.

  • Elle | December 2, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Well this film is clearly fiction. That's what people need to remember. Tarantino is no scholar. No I don't plan on wasting time watch this film.

  • b | December 3, 2012 2:07 PM

    Well somebody should tell Jamie this because that fool is running around calling it the evolution of Kunta Kinte. I think Jamie thinks a documentary.

  • TarantinoFan | December 2, 2012 1:58 PM

    A comment that makes me laugh. I bet you are an educated person, but sadly you dont have "natural" intelligence to see things more clearly.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | December 2, 2012 1:09 PM

    I'd like to hear why you consider it a waste of time -- respectfully.

  • willie dynamite | December 2, 2012 12:20 PMReply

    Ted, I agree a film that addresses the deep reaching plague of slavery should be made, but tarantino isn't trying to make a film like that, nor is any studio. If you think white folks already understand how bad slavery was, go to Texas, or Mississippi, or Fox News, or look at the reactions to the film The Help like he mentioned. They can't comprehend how bad it was because they have never had to. The oppressed and the oppressor can look at the same thing and see it totally differently.

  • VichusSmith | December 2, 2012 2:49 PM

    Does ANY young person really understand slavery as much as they think they do? Is it just white people who are clueless about it?

  • Ted | December 2, 2012 11:14 AMReply

    I'll end up seeing the film, but this does not assuage my fears. I saw how Tarantino handled the Holocaust. Not only did IB trivialize the experience of the Jewish people, but the innumerate homages to Nazi propaganda cinema throughout the film were nauseating (go do some research into Nazi cinema and you'll see what I mean). Slavery is a serious topic, I doubt Tarantino even has the maturity to deal with it in a serious way. One line that was odd for me in this comment was that the predominantly white audience realized how fucked up slavery was ... I would hope they already thought that going into this. Even the most virulent modern racists don't actually support slavery anymore. But this gets back to my original pet peeve about this movie. Tarantino kept insisting this was such a brave film for dealing with slavery- but it's not brave. A movie about slavery let's the audience look back on past injustices and say to themselves how much better we are. It's comforting, not trying. A confrontational, difficult film would show the difficulties faced in American black communities today. The injustice that results from the complex interaction of laws, culture, history etc . Force viewers to confront the tragedies of today and expose how most of us (including my fellow black Americans) sit around complacent with daily tragedies. That would be a brave film. But I've gotten off track. Tarantino has never made a serious, thoughtful film and the issue of slavery deserves a serious, thoughtful touch- I doubt Tarantino will start now.

  • VichusSmith | December 2, 2012 2:52 PM

    I am feeling like we didn't watch the same film. While Inglorious Basterds wasn't exactly from out of the pages of a history book, I didn't feel like the movie was going "Har, har, the holocaust was a laugh riot! Look at Hitler do a dance!" That movie had a lot of brutal imagery in it, and its villains were frightening.

  • Mark | December 2, 2012 12:33 PM


    The "most virulent racists" today would prefer genocide than slavery. While some may not want real slavery, they're happy to see blacks and Latinos warehoused in prisons.

  • ColinS | December 2, 2012 11:26 AM

    Quentin Tarantino is more serious than you know (from the get go, Reservoir Dogs, I perceived QT was always serious about race relations in America, and he has not let me down ever since.) About your view on IB, take an illuminating read: Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds A Manipulation of Metacinema, Edited by Robert Von Dassanowsky.

  • sergio | December 2, 2012 11:25 AM

    The film you're talking about is Eugene's Jarecki's The House I Live In. That film you should check out. Django was never going to be that film. You want reality, you know not to look to Hollywood films for that

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