A saga of African-American life, based on Alex Haley's family history. Kunta Kinte is abducted from his African village, sold into slavery, and taken to America. He makes several escape attempts until he is finally caught and maimed. He marries Bell, his plantation's cook, and they have a daughter, Kizzy, who is eventually sold away from them. Kizzy has a son by her new master, and the boy grows up to become Chicken George, a legendary cock fighter who leads his family into freedom. Throughout the series, the family observes notable events in U.S. history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings, and emancipation. Written by
Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>
I normally don't start out this way, but I feel it matters. I am a Southern White, and I have not seen this movie up until the other night.
I thought this mini-series was one of the top three or four I have ever seen. Throughout the years since this came out, I never really bothered, thinking it would be simply white bashing. It was not. I felt it might be in contradiction with the kind people and relatives I grew up knowing. It was not.
I feel that this mini-series realistically blends black history in with the history we have been fed from the Northern side as well as the Southern side.
Most southerners were not slave owners. They were represented. I think this movie strove to show the kindness in people, as well as the darkness. I look at the South with fondness, but I know that what this movie portrayed was true - in spirit, if not fact.
Sometime after this originally came out there was some controversy over Haley faking some of this. I thought (at the time), A HA! It's bull! Again, remember that I had not watched it. Upon seeing it I realized that though some of this might be fiction, it certainly rang true.
What I didn't like about the movie: Watching Sandy Duncan and Leslie Uggams play teenagers. The acting was okay. Duncan reminded me of that spoiled brat in Little House on the Prairie. My guess is that Duncan was cast so she would look like an adult child and not seem out of place compared to Uggams. It is perhaps that during the seventies Hollywood did not want to take such a chance on a younger African-American to play Kizzy. It was an important role, and our society had not allowed Blacks to come into their own. Hollywood seems to want to force their views on society, yet they are often the last to come into line.
John Amos, whom I really like, seemed to be good and bad for his role. Someone said he sounded like he was in "Good Times" at some points. I don't feel that way. I do feel that his dialect seemed slightly out of place during some moments. He did not detract from the story, though. He carried on Burton's eternal fight for freedom with the same bullheadedness.
Ben Vereen: What can I say? When he started doing Variety Shows in the Seventies, I really admired him. He could play instruments, as well as sing, dance, and act. He does not disappoint here. I was so sad when he lost his role in Silk Stalkings due to an accident. Thankfully he has recovered over time.
Madge Sinclair: What an actress! and beautiful woman, to boot. I didn't know she had leukemia during the days I watched her on Trapper John. There were some episodes where she seemed older than her years, though always beautiful. In Roots she manages to capture and portray an inner beauty and let it shine through her bondage.
Most of the white actors were well cast, Duncan aside. I didn't realize how busy Lloyd Bridges was doing so many mini-series. He makes you hate him here, so he did his job.
Ed Asner had a very poignant remark about no one really being free. It was that he felt he was becoming a slave to his job. Please do not think I am comparing the miseries of forced slavery to a large scheme of celestial bondage, but it was pointed out in this film, that at the end of the war, freedom simply meant going from slavery into some other forced form of servitude. I'm retired, yet I often feel bound to government restrictions and the things I am forced to do routinely to simply maintain my retirement. The African-Americans added to Asner's moment by later saying that when someone died, the smile on his face meant he was finally free.
When Roots came out I remember the cries of many saying, "We now have our history!" Yes, and it was blended well into all of our histories, as I have mentioned. About five years ago, when my daughter married a man of color, he made her watch Roots. She asked me what I thought of him doing that. My response was that she needed to look at all things objectively, and know that most of life is a shade of gray. I also mentioned that had I been the same city, I would have liked to have viewed it with them. Now I can at least share my thoughts and hear my son-in-law's thoughts as well.
My biggest complaint is that the DVD is already out of print. HUH? One of the greatest mini-series ever made and I have to pay scalpers' fees for a used copy? (I borrowed my copy from the library) Please, someone! put this in a continual printing, and PLEASE, do not do what you did with others (cutting whole sections out to save a buck).
This movie (along with North and South) should be required viewing for all people. For the African-Americans, this movie should be made available forever, so that it does not simply fade into folk and family lore the way that Kunta-Kinte did - with only bits and pieces remaining.
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