Django Unchained, the new movie by Quentin Tarantino is playing to mixed reviews. Whites will view and review this movie one-way, and blacks will view it another way. It is not a traditional film, and it confronts black images and stereotypes head on. It forces an honest discussion on America's race relations.
Jamie Foxx is distinguishing himself as a brilliant actor. This is a movie about slavery combined with a cowboy theme, or it is a cowboy movie with a slavery theme. The movie has brought about arguments from Spike Lee saying that it is an insult to slavery. Lee is wrong and if he would see the movie, he might change his mind.
This movie motivates to make you uncomfortable. Some of the scenes are painful to watch, and you might look away. It is not a tale of a noble slave that is downtrodden forever and finds his peace down by the riverside. It is not of a runaway slave who gets caught to have his foot cut off. It is not about a slave who becomes educated and comes back home to lead his people to church and the one-room schoolhouse. It does not honor slavery or the slave. This movie speaks loud to the horrors and inhumanity of slavery. This is a movie about an angry black man who got even.
The Jamie Foxx character is Django (the D is silent), who turns bounty hunter, partnered and trained by a German gentlemen, played by Christopher Waltz, who guises himself as a dentist. Django is a man on the hunt for his beautiful wife who was severely beaten and from whom he was separated at a slave auction.
Eventually, he finds her and buys her freedom. He learns the craft of bounty hunting and becomes one of the best. The cruelty and inhumanity of slavery is shown in raw forms -- including a scene with strong black buck men fighting in the parlor to the point of death for the entertainment of white gentlemen as they sipped their liquor. There is a scene so brutal that it is hard to watch, where a Mandingo fighter says he can't do it anymore and he is trapped in a tree. His master, Calvin Candie, the plantation owner of Candyland superbly played by Leonardo DiCaprio, says he has not gotten his money worth. He paid $500 and the fighter only won three fights. He wants more -- he turns the dogs loose and they literally eat the slave alive.
Samuel Jackson is convincing as an Uncle Tom-mastermind, who says he is harder on blacks than any white man dare. He was an Uncle Tom par excellent with all of its contradictions.
The movie captures the cruelty of slavery and the brutal punishments that ranged from minor mishaps, to providing white man's entertainment, to black women being called upon as comfort women and stripped for the fun of it. The movie destroys stereotypes and answered a lingering question of mine: With all of the physical cruelties inflicted upon the slaves, when did somebody get mad and fight back? Django captures the historical tortures that may not be well-known, such as the facemask and the hot box. Racism is exploited in the movie, and social class statuses that still exist in America are showcased, ranging from the refined gentleman and master of the house, to the redneck that was in charge of slave beatings, to slavery social statuses from the field worker to the house servant.
Django is different kind of black hero. He is the slave who won; he got his woman and he rode off in the sunset just like in the average cowboy movie. The slave conquered. This portrays a totally different image of Hollywood's black slave -- one who killed his enemy along the way. The movie is exceedingly violent -- but Django is being labeled as comic at some parts and considered entertainment. Surely Tarantino took creative liberty, but indeed he made the point too. The movie is great for the black psyche no matter your station in life. The movie is a particular stimulus for the African American male. The controversy of the movie is that blacks to this day still feel the pains of slavery, and whites still feel the guilt to this day. Django puts it in your face, like it or not.
Django, the D is silent. And if you are a black male, wear your cowboy hat to the movie. You will tip it as you leave the show.
What did you think of Django?
Follow Hermene Hartman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Hermene Hartman