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Midday Movies: ‘Django Unchained’

Spaghetti Westerns, Blaxploitation, History, And Pop Culture

Above: Jamie Fox stars as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained."

Aired 2/7/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Beth Accomando, KPBS Arts Reporter and Author of the Blog Cinema Junkie

Sara Clarke Kaplan, Professor of Gender Studies and Gender Studies at UC San Diego

Transcript

February is Black History Month and this edition of Midday Movies looks to a movie still in theaters and still generating controversy over it’s depiction of black history. The film is Quentin Tarantino’s "Django Unchained." The film received five Oscar nominations.

"Django Unchained" was inspired by the 1966 Italian film "Django." It’s Quentin Tarantino’s homage to both spaghetti westerns and Blaxploitation films of the 70s. The film gives us Christoph Waltz as a German bounty hunter operating in pre-Civil War America. In order to capture a trio of outlaws, he enlists the aid of a slave named Django played by Jamie Foxx. The two form a partnership and end up on a quest to find Django’s wife played by Kerry Washington.

I sat down with Sara Clarke Kaplan is professor of ethnic studies and gender studies at UC San Diego to discuss "Django Unchained" and to compare it with Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," which is set in a similar time frame and also deals with slavery. Unlike the the earnest and sober "Lincoln," Tarantino's "Django Unchained" comes at you like a pop culture pastiche dripping with pulpy genre trappings as it weaves what is essentially a revenge tale. The film has spurred controversy on a number of points but mostly in regards to a white director tackling black history within a B-movie formula and making extensive use of the "n" word (something that Kaplan says is historically inaccurate).

Although I enjoyed and appreciated "Django Unchained" more than Kaplan, she doesn't discourage people from seeing it but rather suggests that viewers understand that it is not historically accurate and that they could benefit from doing some outside research on the topic of slavery.

The trailer for the 1966 Italian spaghetti western, "Django."

The trailer for "Django Unchained."

"Django Unchained" and "Lincoln" are both still playing in theaters. You can find out if they will pick up any Oscars on February 24th.

ESSENTIAL VIEWING

"Django" (1966)

"Amistad"

"Sankofa"

"Glory"

"Roots"

"Shaft"

"Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song"

"Cotton Comes to Harlem"

"Coffy"

"Friday Foster"

ESSENTIAL READING

"Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy" and "he Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery" by Eric Foner

"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison

"Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald

"Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"Civil War: Battle Cry of Freedom" by James McPherson

"Hope and Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment" edited by Martin H. Blatt, Thomas J. Brown, and Donald Yacovone

"The Regulations of Robbers: Legal Fictions of Slavery and Resistance" by Christina Accomando (yes she is my sister)

LINKS

My Cinema Junkie review of "Django Unchained"

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry

Blaxploitation Title List

Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 Favorite Spaghetti Westerns

"One in 10,000" Notorious PhD

Tarantino Vs. Spielberg

"'Django Unchained' is a Better Movie About Slavery Than 'Lincoln'" Esquire Magazine

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 7, 2013 at 2:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Where is Gillo Pontecorvo's very underrated BURN! on that list? A very seroius omission.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 7, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ― 1 year, 8 months ago

Tarantino was not striving for historical accuracy.

( | suggest removal )