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FEATURES Jan 7 2013 8:08PM

Review: One Filmmakers Take on Django Unchained

by Danielle Eliska Lyle
tweeting @danielleeliska

I did it.

I climbed the stairs and settled in comfortably next to my friend. Against better judgment, I did it.
Spike warned me, but I went anyway. And I saw it. Django Unchained.

Something that’s been done a million times—without flair.

The stereotypes, implications, degradation and moronic depictions of my predecessors.

The white man saving the day. Spoof at the expense of tragic history. Objectification.

Black on Black crime. Self-hatred.

Images and story themes that have been shoved into our mental psyche for centuries. And for whatever reason, they speak louder than anything else.

I am not denying the fact that Black on Black crime and self-hatred existed before and during MAAFA. For we know there’s nothing new under the sun. There is this “mathematical carry-over of trauma”—subtract the healing, carry the pain— that is a result of Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome, a topic Dr. Leary speaks about with conviction and educated purpose.

But this taught behavior, this agent of colonial racism that sells so effectively that even the black proletariats and elitists rush out to buy their $6.50 matinee and popcorn combo worth. It is just another angle, another door, and another attack: a threat to the thinking caps of the Colored cultures. Django Unchained is yet an additional attempt at historical contextualization made satirical because audiences around the world cannot “handle the reality”. It is a depiction of psychopath colonialism at its best—an analysis delivered effectively by the intellectual scholar and activist, Frantz Fanon many moons ago.

There’s a cloak here that many aren’t seeing. Over the past few days, my social network timelines have flooded with comments on Tarantino’s, Django Unchained.  To my surprise, comments weighed in favor of the film, naming it “one of the best films of the year!” And these comments were from those of the Black persuasion.

Days before Django Unchained release date, I sat in a room full of family members and friends and refrained from discouraging them to go see it. As a matter of fact, I encouraged them to attend so they could weigh in and feel the brunt of the blow. It was a matter of reverse psychology to get people fired up from their emotions as opposed to my personal thoughts and waves of critical reviews that flood the Internet.

What I preach I must practice, so I went. While I shifted uncomfortably in my seat within the first 10 minutes of viewing, I was reminded of how some of my colleagues found it entertaining. I found myself wiping the sides of my face, checking for residue of blood because the offense nearly burst my eardrums. There was surround sound of laughter while I sat appalled. By the establishment of the inciting incident, I had tapped out. And as the credits rolled upon fin, we skulked out of the theater, shell-shocked into silence. It was so harrowing for me that Samuel L. Jackson’s depiction of Uncle Ruckus in Django haunted me in my sleep—I felt as if he was leaning over my bed. What makes Black artists feel responsible to keep up a high quota of “soft shoe”? I believe I’ll never know.

My reaction was similar to the one I had to the Broadway musical, The Scottsboro Boys. It was the same reaction I had to Red Tails. It was the same reaction I had to The Patriot. It was the same reaction I had to The New World. It was the same reaction I had to Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans.
LAWD, the list continues…

These films show reality at a slant as if People of Color only knew sub servitude, living a dense, crass, obtuse, brainless way of life until some white man stood up in all his glory and splendor to map out the way of freedom. As if People of Color weren’t born into prolific kingdoms and hadn’t come from a lineage of fierce warriors who knew when to shout the battle cry at the perfect time in attempt to gain their freedom.  I dare say there were more successes of takeover than there were failures, but of course, if left up to the imagination of the “majority”, those wins are the world’s best-kept secrets in fear of a cultural awareness intended for “commencement”.

Some may think my words are those of a conspiracy theorist—absurd and outlandish. But if we switch the paradigm in thought, we would virtually see an imbalance that is more bizarre and flights of fancy that keep us stagnant, without a desire for stories that are vast from the redundant, blockish scripts constantly filmed in Culver City.

At the end of the day, Tarantino can make whatever film he chooses. I am not on his board of executives nor does he seek my opinion on drafts of his scripts—but I am at liberty to state truths that are irrevocable. We must stop giving passes to those who recklessly make films about People of Color.

The solution to this on-going problem in Hollywood (and it is de facto, a problem) is for us to continue writing our own stories, shoving the barriers aside with cast and crew in tote—edging into the light with the history, knowledge and certainty until it is fully revealed and acknowledged. This movement I speak of starts within us, individually. We create. Then, like minds join together collectively to brew an external movement; it is then, an era begins. Similar in momentum to those of the past—this new epoch should make us (writers and filmmakers) feel it is our responsibility to write and shoot these truths… or die trying.


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