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There is nothing quite like Roots and i don't think anything will be
done like it again. I first saw this about 5 years ago and since then
i've seen it all 3 more times. It is a phenomenal achievement!
Roots starts off around 1750 when an African baby is born called Kunta Kinte and follows his life. He gets enslaved by slavers when he's 15 and is taken to a white supremest America where he is sold at a slave market to a Virginian tobacco business man. From there we follow Kunta all the way through to old age and beyond and after he dies we follow his daughter and when she dies as an old lady we follow her son and so on. Basically the main characters die off and then the newish minor characters become main characters as well as there are new characters which are brought in from time to time. All the while though the black people are slaves and treated as 3rd class citizens. We see how they struggle with their hard life and how some of them are happy to be slaves as they've never known anything else and how some dream of freedom. Over the years and generations we see good white people, indifferent white people and very bad white people. It passes quickly through the war of independence but focuses longer on the civil war mainly because this is the beginning of the end of black slavery in America which leads to the KKK part of Roots.
After watching Roots it really does feel like you have watched 120 years of a families generations. From the beginning where Kunta is born all the way to the end where a very old Chicken George leads his family to a new free life. It is quite mind boggling.
I could write a huge review about this mighty saga but i ain't got the time and i doubt anyone would read it anyway. As a white guy i am ashamed at how white people treated black people so badly even though to a lesser extent that still goes on in the world today.
The story is amazing, the acting is award winning and i have no quips with Roots at all apart from one thing. Everyone ages through this except the amazing ageless Mr Moore. Over a span of around 50 years he doesn't age a day. When he is first introduced he looks about 50 and 50 years later he still looks like 50. I think he must be a Highlander or something! LOL
Of course, Roots was made possible by the writer Alex Haley who was a descendant of Kunta Kinte which is explained at the very end. I recommend Roots very highly. It's for people who enjoy history and an engrossing story. You will also get attached to the characters and feel a sense of loss when one of them die. I've only covered the very basics and left a ton of stuff out in this review. Just like Schindler's List you have to watch this because it is an important piece of film making based on a true story. One word....Brilliant! 10/10
Two of the most important American television programs are "The Civil
War" by Ken Burns (1989), and the epic narrative miniseries "Roots"
(1977) based on the book "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" by
Alex Haley. Despite the controversy surrounding the book, and the facts
of Haley's ancestry (for example, the slave Toby aka "Kunte Kinte", may
never have fathered Kizzy and therefore may not be a direct ancestor of
Haley) the series is an important and ground-breaking work in its
stunning portrayal of slave life in America from the late 18th century
to the mid-19th century.
For decades, the United States has been largely in denial of its treatment of African-Americans both as slaves and later in post-Civil War periods. The south of the 19th century had fabricated the reality of slave conditions and down-played the brutality inflicted on both slaves and anti-slave sympathizers. Racial hatred and brutality continued into the 20th century, largely fueled by white traditions that have (and continue to) concoct misrepresentations of historical reality to younger generations. By the middle of the 20th century, nearly 100 years after the end of the American Civil War, President Johnson signed Civil Rights legislation into law with the White Southern community kicking and screaming all the way. If legislation couldn't change people's hearts and minds, what could?
Americans love movies, story-telling/narrative film depictions of reality. There had never before been a nationally distributed film production that honestly told the story of the African-American slave experience. Fourteen years after Johnson's legislation, "Roots" was broadcast on national television by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). I regard those network executives that green-lighted the broadcast in great esteem for their willingness to take a chance on this most-important series. I doubt whether US commercial television will ever produce and broadcast such a high-caliber and controversial program again in the near future. And to give credit to the American viewing public, "Roots" was a huge success.
From beginning to end, "Roots" is an absolute triumph of film production, the best-ever miniseries offered by a corporate network. The acting and the script are top-notch. Almost every notable African-American acting talent of the time was solicited to join the cast, from LeVar Burton and John Amos (Kunte Kinte, Toby) to Lou Gosset Jr (Fiddler) to Ben Vareen (Chicken George) to James Earl Jones (Alex Haley). Even OJ Simpson makes an appearance. A lot of notable white talent appears as well, such as Ed Asner and Sandy Duncan.
Slavery is a tragedy and "Roots" is a tragic story. "Roots" has its light moments, its inspiring moments, although it is its heartbreaking moments that stay with you: The moment the young African Kunte Kinte is shackled, sold as chattel and forced to board the slave ship bound for America. The whipping of the young Kunte Kinte to "break" him into slavery. The selling of Kizzy, Toby's daughter, to another slave master because of her involvement with a scheme to help a runaway. These are the moments that make Roots' larger point. Another aspect that makes Roots effective in its rhetoric is that it never seeps into sentimentality to makes its point. The story relies on an honest narrative to tell its story. Is it brutal? Yes. Unjust? Definitely. And that is what it was. (If you don't believe "Roots", sell yourself into slavery and see how you like it.)
Two aspects occur to me about what this story means beyond just the plain inhumanity of the institution of slavery. One aspect is that the benefit of slavery is terribly minute when compared to the staggering price paid by the slaves themselves and everyone else. Simultaneously, non-slaves were pressed into service to maintain slavery as an institution. Such titanic sadness, misery, hopelessness brutality, and inhumanity is forced upon people (both slave and non-slave) in return for a more comfortable life for a minuscule segment of the population. And yet the amount of work, effort, and money to maintain the inhumane infrastructure seems more burdensome than if these people were free. The average white southerner could not afford to own slaves, and many worked for slave owners as overseers, slave-catchers, auctioneers, and other positions designed to maintain the institution. In short, misery for thousands with a little comfort for a few.
The other tragedy is the denial of positive contribution to society. Those who were slaves were denied giving their love, their knowledge, their inspiration, and their culture to society. All this beauty sacrificed so a few white aristocrats can laze around on sofas in front of fireplaces in giant mansions. Someone once said that if we don't help foster the gifts in other people, we run the risk of never seeing how our world could be made better. Slavery is a tragedy for the people enacting it as well, although the suffering aspect is less apparent.
"Roots" is a story that needs to be told and retold. Shown and re-shown. I would encourage any teacher trying to convey the reality of slavery in America to consider showing at least a segment or two of "Roots". There is no question that the film is mesmerizing. It saddens me that there are still those in America that want to hang onto southern myths that propagate that slavery wasn't that bad. These are some of the same people that are convinced the holocaust is a fabrication. It is better to forgive than the forget. We have to embrace our roots.
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
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.
I was born in 1980, and had heard of Roots from reading about LeVar
Burton being the only real "name" to join Star Trek: The Next
Generation. I came across the boxset at my local library and was able
to find out what this "Roots" thing was all about. Having the series on
DVD was definitely a boon as (despite being in NTSC) it has a crisp and
clear appearance, usually stuff on TV from the 70's or 80's has a
Despite it's lowish budget, and age, Roots has a certain kinetic energy, it kept me interested from the start. Being able to see a young LeVar Burton was great, and without any visors or contact lenses. The casting was excellent all around and the actors put in 100% effort. My only bone to pick was using two different actors for Kunta Kinte. They were physically very different, John Amos doesn't look, act or sound like LeVar Burton, which disrupts the sense of continuity the rest of the multi-episode characters had.
By the end I found I had become quite involved with the series and enjoyed seeing it unfold, I liked it so much I viewed the whole nine hours again with commentary (well, I had time to kill). It is interesting that Roots carries a sense of history (as in the late 70's) and culture with it, it's not just a TV show, there's a whole air surrounding it. I'm glad I got the opportunity to see it, I gained a clearer understanding of where African-Americans as a people are coming from, and I hope everyone who hasn't seen it yet gets the opportunity to do so.
In 1977 I was 10 years old, and all I remember is the majority of the city
where I live was watching Roots each day for a week. I recently bought the
video and watched it with my now 10 year old son, who is Black and I show
him the importance of getting an education because our ancestors weren't
allowed such luxuries. At his age everything is rosy just like it was when I
was 10, but hopefully he can reflect back on this movie to motivate him in
Great cast of characters-even though I didn't realize that O.J. Simpson was in it! John Amos was the best and the funniest especially when he kept losing his character's African accent and sounding more like "James" on Good Times! Overall the movie is very touching and will have you experiencing mixed emotions if you're of the Black race, and have compassion if you're of other races that haven't experienced such things. I highly recommend this film and a book called the Miseducation of the Negro as Black family heirlooms-or for anyone who wants to be enlightened concerning a portion of Black history.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roots (1977) is still the best mini-series. This highly watched drama
set the bar for all of the epic television dramas. The series follows
the life of Kunta Kinte and his descendants from the coasts of West
Africa to the plantation fields of the American south. This show pulls
no punches when dealing with the sad truths about how many slaves were
shipped from their homelands and (if they survived the horrific
overseas trip) forced to work in the fields. Even though Kunta was a
slave, he never lost hope about one day his ancestors would once again
have the freedom he once had. He also vowed that his ancestors would
never forget their roots, old ways and customs.
Kunta always tried to head for freedom whenever the chance came. Even when the slave catchers cut off a piece of his foot, that never deterred him from running. But his marriage and child kept him from running when he had the opportunity. He named his only daughter Kizzy (Mandinka for staying put). Years later, Kizzy is sold to Tom Moore who uses his slaves not only for workers but for "comfort women: as well. She has a mixed child named Chicken George who like his grandfather also dreams about freedom and does whatever he can to make sure that he's a free man.
Awesome show and it still holds up well, The one thing I really got a hoot out of was seeing some of the well known liberal actors in Hollywood play some of the most despicable characters you'll ever want to see (Ralph Waite, Lloyd Bridges, Vic Morrow). The story and acting is top notched and it's definitely a heart string puller.
Highest recommendation possible.
I recently viewed all of this Mini series on the Hallmark Channel, and let me say, it was amazing! I was born 3 years after Roots was on television and never had the chance to see it growing up. I knew that Hallmark was showing it, so I made plans to see all 6 parts this week. It made me angry, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me happy, it made me open my eyes. The range of emotions ran the table this week. Now I know why it got all the acclaim that it rightly deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first watched Roots when it came out in 1977 and was overwhelmed. Terrific cast of who's who in Hollywood. Well known actors of today, but were unknown then, for example Levar Burton and John Amos and of course old veterans, such as Lorne Greene, Lloyd Bridges, Burl Ives and so on. I could not get used to Doug McClure playing a baddie. Always remembering him as Trampas in The Virginian. Personally i did not think he pulled it of very well. Regarding the bad guys. My criticism of Roots was the way these characters were portrayed. To me, they looked like characters out of an old Hotspur or Victor comic. Also there was not much told regarding the American war of independence. All in all a very good series for young and old. I also recommend the sequel Roots The Next Generation. Kevin Thomas.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Back in 1977 the miniseries Roots told the story of Kunta Kinte, one of
many young people kidnapped from the west coast of Africa and
transported across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery in the southern
US states. While this was perhaps a brave subject for TV in 1977, such
tales had been sensationalist popular fiction for some time. But Roots
went further: it went on to recount Kunta Kinte's life, and followed
the lives of his descendants up to the point where his modern day
descendant Alex Hailey, author of the book from which the TV series was
developed, went to Africa in search of his ancestral roots, and tracked
down his far-distant family in the village from which Kunta Kinte had
This inspiring story - extremely well told in the TV series within the standards of the time - was then damaged by the revelation that Hailey had blatantly copied large chunks of story material relating to Kunta Kinte's life in Africa from a work by another author: the plagiarism suit was ultimately resolved with an out-of-court settlement, but the damage had been done.
This is an enormous shame because the importance of this series cannot be underestimated. The impact on TV in general was vast, but the impact on the viewing public was even greater - it brought a degree of awareness to a relatively ignorant western world as to exactly what the forebears of the black population had been through (albeit somewhat softened for TV consumption). And notwithstanding the specific untruth of Hailey's plagiarism, the fact remains that the TV series told a wider truth, and in a way which was accessible to a wider public.
The adaptation was excellent, the casting and performances were, for the most part, first rate, and Quincy Jones' theme was memorable.
One of the best mini-series to grace the small screen. Told through
span of several generations of writer Authur Haley's ancestors. The
depiction of the slave era is at times hard to watch but should be seen
by all. The stellar cast brings both young (at that time) talent and
many veteran stars of both the big and small screen. Both Levar Burton,
and John Amos bring to life the story of Mandinka tribesman Kunta Kinte
who is taken into chains from his African homeland to Colonial America
and sold into slavery.
This series does not hold back either the depiction of native African life nor the language and violence of slave life in America. If you have a younger audience you might want to talk some about the content but nothing is presented in the series that is not done to the highest standard and quality.
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