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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Important TV - entertaining too

Author: Neil Welch from United Kingdom
3 September 2012

*** 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 been kidnapped.

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.

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7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:


Author: leighabc123 from Portsmouth, Virginia
28 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie had a terrific plot with almost every great actor and actress from the 1970s in it. It was Levar Burton's acting debut. It even had Robert Reed AKA Mike Brady as a slave owner and OJ Simpson. It had a younger Madge Sinclair and many other great actresses such as Cicily Tyson playing the motherly type role that she plays in every movie and Maya Angelou. Louis Gossett, Jr. made this movie. But I don't believe Alex Haley successfully traced his roots that many generations and know half of the things that went on in his family. The names are probably the only true thing in this movie. None of the experiences are real. This is realistic fiction. It took a lot of creativity to create this movie. This movie was way ahead of its time. But just by looking at this movie, you can tell that the plot is made up and not really the experiences that Alex Haley's ancestors experienced. This movie is entertaining, but do not take it seriously at all! I never give a movie on 5 stars, but I am going to make an exception for this one.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Roots Will endure as Kunte Kinte's legacy for generations

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
4 September 2015

When talking about Roots it's good to keep in mind Woodrow Wilson's praise of D.W. Griffith's Birth Of A Nation. "History written with lightning" were the words of the 28th president for a ground breaking film reflecting his southern upbringing. Something similar should be said about Roots which gives the history of slavery as seen through the eyes of the descendants of Kunte Kinte of which author Alex Haley was one.

Every black male player of the time in 1977 whose name wasn't Sidney Poitier seem to participate here and those who didn't make it to the original production made it to the sequel. The females did just as well. Levar Burton who played the teenage Kunte Kinte was given his first big break and this became one of two career roles for him, the other being Geordi LaForge on Star Trek The Next Generation.

Favorites of mine included John Amos who played the adult Kunte Kinte renamed Toby by his owners. He never forgets his Roots which is the whole basis of the mini-series. But he does become a father. His daughter is played by Leslie Uggams and she's a standout as well. So for me is Lou Gossett, Jr. who played The Fiddler who tries to teach Kunte Kinte aka Toby how to survive. Amos is not a willing pupil to say the least.

The white players here in southern society have some juicy roles as well. My absolute favorite here is Sandy Duncan who is the quintessence of the empty headed southern belle brought up when push comes to shove to regard her slaves as property.

One thing that is rarely discussed about Roots is the tradition in many cultures of oral history. It is his African tradition of that that keeps the generations in touch with the African past. Slave owners were quite specific about not teaching their slaves how to read and write. Illiteracy is a powerful weapon, but it need not be invincible as Roots demonstrates.

The story of Kunte Kinte's descendants takes us to shortly after the Civil War in the Reconstruction Era. This is as much history written with lightning than Birth Of A Nation was in its time.

In fact back in 1915 it would have been impossible to conceive of something like Roots being written and performed. That in itself is a testament as to how far we've come as a society.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Black History Month Movie Pick

Author: Penelope Ana Mn
20 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If a person wants to understand Black History in the US then watch this movie. Roots is about one man telling the story of how his family came to the colonies and became a slave. Slavery did not just affect black people but the institution of slavery affected everyone in the colonies (United States). You can't turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of one ethnic group and then say all is well. I loved this movie because the acting is great. The cinematography is great and the writing is realistic. I hate slavery movies where they don't tell the inhumanity and exploitation that actually happened in the slave trade. Amistad is another movie about slavery that should be watched. It tells how slaves were stacked up like cargo and shipped to the US, South America, parts of Europe and the Caribbean and treated worse than animals. You wouldn't put horses or dogs in a ship like that. This movie is intense but the whole movie is worth watching.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Miniseries needs to be seen past, present, and future!

Author: ShelbyTMItchell from Seymour Tennessee
19 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As we are still striving to make sense and harmony of racial relations. As this miniseries from the 1977 TV season that drew over 100M people and how it introduced the world to how racism really began about.

It shows the struggle to be free and how it looks at the descendants of the late Alex Haley, author the book thinking that the word "free" would never, ever come.

By showing the struggles that these people have. From Kunta Kinte the main protagonist to his line of family linage like Kizzy, Chicken George, etc.

A great cast led by a then unknown Levar Burton and great writing. Shows us that this miniseries needs to be seen not just in the past, but present and future generations to come.

No matter what race, color, creed, gender, religion, etc we belong in. For it is the fight to accept others like in the past that has since occurred in the present and in the future to come.

Haley should take a bow for opening up 100M to the fight to remain free and accept others!

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A story that needed to be told...

Author: Naberrie218 from United States
19 May 2011

I decided to look up Roots recently after remembering that LeVar Burton starred in it. I had heard about it somewhere years ago, as a kid, and knew it was about slavery, but not much else about it. I'm glad I decided to take the time and watch it. It's a story that should be seen by all people, regardless of skin color or background, for it is first and foremost, a human story. That people could treat other human beings the way the slaves were treated is completely appalling.

It is heartbreaking to see an innocent young man taken away from his home and forced to be a slave. It is sickening to see the grim reality of slavery and how people were treated worse than animals because of their skin color. Although many parts of the movie are disturbing, it is necessary that that those things are shown in order to fully understand the extent of what these human beings had to endure. Kunta Kinte is the image of the indomitable human spirit, and has become one of my favorite characters. I admire how he refused to submit and be treated like he was nothing, how he fought to keep his name and heritage though they were all trying to change him.

If you are human, then you will definitely feel immense compassion for the main character, and for all the slaves who had to endure such cruelty from people who called themselves human and civilized. There are many parts of it that will leave you feeling disgusted about how anyone could do such things to human beings.

The actors do a great job of making you love or hate their characters. You will feel repugnance at characters like Slater and Ames, and Edward Asner does a great portrayal of a Captain Davies, commanding a slave ship but at the same time deeply bothered by his own conscience and morality.

Of course, the star is LeVar Burton and he is excellent as Kunta Kinte, bringing all the emotions of his character to life. Through Kunta's eyes, you see the horrors he is forced to endure, you feel his pain, and the endearing innocence of his character makes it all the more heartbreaking. The only thing I did not like about the movie is how they used two very different actors to portray the same character. Especially since John Amos doesn't look, sound, or act like Levar Burton.

I understand that they couldn't believably make a 19 or 20 year old LeVar Burton look like like he was 50, so getting an older actor to play that part was necessary, however, John Amos came into the movie way too soon. In 1776, Kunta is only 26 years old and still a young man. It makes no sense that they got John Amos to play him at that age, it should have definitely been LeVar Burton still portraying Kunta. (And as many people know, in real life, LeVar still looked pretty much the same in his 30s as he did at 19) I also feel that they should have gotten an actor who resembled LeVar a bit more than John Amos did and that he shouldn't have come into the movie until much later, when Kunta was to be portrayed as a graying and middle-aged man, not someone still in his 20s. What they did took away from the continuity of the story and I lost some of that sense of immersion that I'd felt since up till then.

That said, the story itself is a great one, a very tragic and heartbreaking human story that reflects the struggle of all the oppressed people in this world, as well as educates people about the grim and disturbing reality of a part of this nation's history. It also is a reminder that they can never take away who you are as a person, no matter what, and that the strength of the human soul rises above all. Now that I've seen it on screen, I'm definitely going to read the book, which will undoubtedly have more details than can be shown on screen and enrich the story even more.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

From Gambia to North Carolina

Author: Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
30 September 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This TV mini-series has become a classic in some twenty or thirty years and it deserves to be, both in its first part and in its second part. Yet the quality of the filming and editing has aged and the film is not served by the fact it was done for television that tends to show too many close-ups and to avoid vast rapid movements and wide landscapes. But it has become a classic by the theme it deals with. The first mini series deals with the fate of black people from when they were captured in Africa to their liberation after the Civil War. The vision of Africa in the 18th century is slightly improved on what it was. Some rituals are nicely evoked but not shown, circumcision for example, and nothing is said about excision for the girls. The capturing of Bantu blacks in western Africa and their enslaving had been going on for centuries. The new thing is that the captured Bantu blacks were no longer sold as slaves to the northern Moslem tribes or even Moslem Maghreb people, but to the whites for only one reason: the whites paid better and more. This is not done out of decency. It seems to be done in order to avoid any rejection for the family public, any restrictive rating. It is the same thing with the whole period about slavery. The film concentrates on odious facts but all together rather limited facts: one whipping, a couple of children sold, very few rapes by the whites in order to produce mulattoes that could be sold for a profit. The hardships of field work are also curbed a lot. The living conditions and quarters were quite luxurious when we know what it really was. Even the Civil War is shown with a lot of reserve. They may say the number of dead but they don't show the battles, the medical care of the wounded, the savagery of the war itself and the innumerable amputees and other victims after the war. Altogether the first part is rather tamed. That of course enhances the main theme of this first part, and also of the second part, the fact that one has to retain the memory of one's origins, roots, past, even if it is only a name, a few words, a few episodes. It is those recollections passed from one generation to the next that feed and strengthen the sense of belonging, the hope that will bring the future out of the present, the light that may one day illuminate the dull and dark present. One day at a time but always with the past in the conscious background. And the joy of the liberation is important, but the first part ends on a closure too: the whites are still there and the blacks have to live with them and compromises are not always easy to find and not always to the real benefit of the blacks. Slavery is replaced by sharecropping but what's the difference when the black sharecroppers start with the debts that are attributed to them to pay for what they need to work and they should get free since they worked for nothing for decades. That's how it works with the whites in the South, and yet the family we are speaking of managed to finagle a plan to get the mules free and to move out without paying for the debts of slavery from North Carolina to Tennessee where one freed member who got the chance to make some wealth in England had bought some land. That's the real freedom this family achieves after the Civil war: to possess the land they till and thus the harvest they grow.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The 'War & Peace' Of Television

Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
9 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the American mini-series 'Roots' debuted on B.B.C.-1 in 1978, I was pretty cynical. Here we go again, I thought, yet another overblown soap opera, 'Rich Man, Poor Man' Mark Two. I do not know what compelled me to tune in for the first instalment, but am so glad I did, else I would have then missed one of the greatest series of all time.

Based on the book by Alex Haley, the story begins with his ancestor Kunta Kinte ( LeVar Burton ) disobeying his father's advice by venturing beyond the perimeters of his African village to find wood with which to make a drum for his baby brother. He is caught by slave traders, who ship him back to the United States in the most appalling conditions imaginable to begin a new life as a slave called 'Toby'. The scene where Kunta is incarcerated in chains and screams at the top of his lungs is one of the most harrowing ever broadcast, and shocks still.

Making repeated escape attempts, Kunta has part of his foot chopped off. Years pass, and he marries another slave named Bell ( Madge Sinclair ), and they have a daughter called Kizzy ( Leslie Uggams ). She is taught to read and write by the spoilt daughter of her owner, a fact that ultimately leads to her being sold off to the disgusting Tom Moore ( Chuck Connors ), a man who thinks nothing of having sex with his female slaves.

I will leave the synopsis here. 'Roots' is an epic that spans decades, taking in major historical events such as the American Civil War, and although grim for most of the time ends on a note of optimism for the future. It brought history to life in a way no book could ever hope to do. My knowledge of the shameful age of slavery was increased a thousandfold. With race riots having been in the news only a few years earlier, it made me think: "my God, no wonder the blacks hate us.".

It took stick from some quarters over historical accuracy. While it is true that the African village seen at the start of the series was like something out of an old 'Tarzan' movie the sense that a monstrous injustice had been committed was there. Yes, Haley took liberties ( it is called 'artistic licence' ), but did not invent slavery. He did not need to because it actually happened. If nitpickers want to remain blinkered to the evils of history, that's fine by me. As long as they do not expect everyone else in the world to think the same way.

John Amos as the adult 'Kunta', Lou Gossett Jr as 'Fiddler', Leslie Uggams as 'Kizzy', and, in particular, Ben Vereen as 'Chicken George' were brilliant, and the show not only was viewed by the highest audience in American history ( at that time ), but also won countless awards, including the prestigious Peabody ( which Bill O'Reilly later claimed to have won! ).

I doubt it but hope Enoch Powell ( and those cretins who marched in support of his extreme views ) was among the millions who saw it in Britain.

Interestingly, 1978 was also the year in which 'The Black & White Minstrel Show' ( a singing/dancing variety show starring white performers in minstrel make-up ) ended after a twenty-year run. After 'Roots', those hand-waving 'yassuh, boss!' stereotypes were no longer welcome on our screens.

Though repeated several times, 'Roots' has not been seen here for years, but thankfully is on D.V.D. It should be compulsive viewing in all schools.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

a masterpiece

Author: funexpert from jax, fla
13 February 2002

I just watched the ist two episodes on dvd. and I'm speechless. get this movie and bring friends. It brings so much to the table other than slavery. It spoke volumes to me. Levar Burton is a revelation and it surprises me that he isn't doing more movies. He reminded me of those silent film stars who show with their eyes.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Hard to Stomach.. But great film

Author: harperdk
20 May 2002

Wow... It is hard to believe that people would actually treat other humans in this manner. I find it hard to watch the film.. I found myself turning it off... reflecting and then returning to the film. I hope this is a wake-up call to all people to understand that prejudice needs to stop. At all costs! What a price that has been paid for freedom!

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