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The story of Alex Haley's ancestors is a powerful one, and he turned it
a very fine (if partly plagiarized) book. The 1977 miniseries, on the
hand, is an example of television's "dumbing down" process. It's
relentlessly obvious, cheesy and cliched. The writing is dishonest when
just inept. Scene after scene is played to the rafters. African-Americans
in particular deserved better.
You want specifics? Chicken George (Ben Vereen) was born after his mother was raped by his master. In the book he's aware from childhood that their master is also his father, which is exactly what you'd expect. Here, however, we're asked to believe that this is a Big Secret he doesn't know because his mother didn't tell him. (Does he think it was a virgin birth?) That's so she can finally tell him when he's grown up with children of his own, and give the episode a cheap emotional climax. This is a familiar TV cliche.
The conclusion is particularly laughable. Formula requires "empowerment," so they have an unbelievable scene where the ex-slaves tie the Evil Klansman to a tree before leaving town. First they point a gun at him, then his henchmen come out and get the drop on them, then other blacks get the drop on the henchmen. (This happened on GET SMART once, but the laughs were intentional there.)
True, there are fine performances by actors like Louis Gossett and Vereen, but the white cast is mostly at sea. (As the slave ship's Ineffectual Christian Liberal Conscience, the normally able Edward Asner gives one of the 10 worst performances in TV history.) As for production values, ABC spent more on ROOTS than on any past TV movie, but you'd never know it: it looks very cheap.
In sum, the miniseries ROOTS (like the miniseries HOLOCAUST) was "politically correct" before we knew the term.
I was a kid of 8 years old when Roots first appeared on our Television set on a Saturday night. I can remember my parents being as engulfed in it as we the kids were. Nearly 30 years later I watched it again right through over 4 nights and yes it still has that wonderful aurora about it. Growing up I could remember the names of Kute Kinte, Kizzy and Chicken George but seeing the story unfold again brought back memories that had seem to disappear. My wife had not seen this as a child and I also got her to watch, rightly so she was in tears of joy and sadness at some of the wonderful scenes. I have now got the disks of my own and as soon as my kids come to age one of my the first things i will so is to ensure that they see Roots and remember that no one should have to endure the hardships that Kute and his family had to. Overall a superb dramatisation and one which holds a special place in my heart. 10/10
OK, i've only seen the beginning of the movie, but what i've seen of the movie shows that it is quite historically accurate and it leaves you thinking how amazing the human spirit is even when other human beings spirits are dark like the night and just as unpleasant. If all of us could hold on to belief and hope in times like such we would all be much better people. This is a movie that makes you think about humankind, human spirit, and the human heart. If all movies were like this hopefully people wouldn't repeat those mistakes. I feel that if everyone had the spirit of Kunta Kinte and the heart of such a man maybe there wouldn't be wars crossing the borders of countless countries. Maybe people wouldn't wish for material possession, even if that were possible, would that extinguish many other problems (world hunger, AIDS, etc.) maybe, maybe not. But it does teach us that human decency though at times seem rare makes its face apparent at small, but important times in our life, if only we could grasp it and share it with others... maybe we could ...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had the honor to watch "Roots" when it first aired in 1977. I was 10
years old and was not totally aware of what it meant to be African
American. From the first episode, my life changed. Kunta Kinte (LeVar
Burton as younger Kunta and John Amos as older Kunta) is stolen from
his home in Africa and is shipped to America.
There are many heartbreaking images throughout the series:
1) Kunta is being beaten and is forced to accept his slave name of Toby 2) Kunta and his wife, Bell (Madge Sinclair) desperately trying to save their daughter Kizzy (Leslie Uggams)from being sold. You know that their attempts would be useless and as she is screaming for her parents, her cries tear at the heart.This is soon followed by her rape at the hands of her new master, Tom Moore (Chuck Connors), resulting in the birth of her son, George (Ben Vereen). 3) Kizzy learning of her parent's fate on her visit to the plantation where she was born.
Throughout all this, the story of Kunta Kinte is passed on, from generation to generation.
One of the most important films of all time, "Roots" clearly shows the African American experience. I was so caught up in the performances that, for a while, I was really mad at Mr. Brady (A.K.A. Robert Reed, who plays Dr. Reynolds, who sold Kizzy. Hey, I WAS 10, you know!). But then, that just shows that the all-star cast had done an excellent job with the parts given to them.
This is a must have in your collection.
This program was a ground breaker and a classic. Reading the book, watching The History Channel and Discovery Channel, research the internet and read updated history books and you'll find fascinating facts about Roots and the "Slave Trade." Slavery was introduced to the New England states around 1600's. Some Blacks were used as Indentured Servants. Mostly young black boys were sold to the Slave Traders(Haitains, Jamaicans and Whites) by their own people(African Tribal leaders).The Black boys outnumbered the Black girls at the auction block. Slavery in this country was abolished in 1864, but slavery still exist in the world.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am surprised this series hasn't been re aired on ABC or anyplace else
for a long time. This is a classic series detailing the slavery trade
in the US, through almost 200 yrs of history up the Civil War (Roots
the Next Generation).
An all stars cast from Levar Burton, to Maya Angelou, Ed Asner, Louis Gosset Jr. as the slave driven fiddler to Sandy Duncan and the late Vic Murrow wow!!! The story well basically details again the disgusting slave trade which was going around in the world but specifically in the USA, yes we face it, we have a long history to both be proud and be ashamed of.
The story stars with our hero of sorts Kunta Kinte, Levar Burton being kidnapped from his home in Africa and being shipped out to be another slave. Ed Asner is remarkable as the religious captain of a slave ship whose conscious eats him alive for committing such an evil sin.
Even Kunta gets a slave name and tries to revolt fighting such politically incorrect blacks like Fiddler only to realize the situation is hopeless and to top it he learns a love of his is raped by a piece of white trash named Tom Moore. Eventually after Kunta's story comes the next generation of Roots taking place around the Civil War, blacks are free in the North but the same old story continues in the south ,although now blacks are now beginning to fight back.
The DVD's are great, Levar Burton provides visual commentary on the episodes. Louis Gosset Jr., and David L Wolper the creative executive who brought Roots to life all reminiscent about the special significance of the series.
Really this should be shown in every classroom since this like "Salt of the Earth" is essential viewing, a perfect 10 out 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*SPOILERS* This summary is a bit long, it doesn't mean that I'm all extra
into it, it's only long because they're are six different movies in this
series and I just feel compelled to comment on each one. When I saw it for
the first time in class, it really interested me; mainly because I was so
shocked and appalled at the white captain's stereotypes on Africans and his
use of the b-word to describe the women. I only got to see it up to the
second part in class; which sucked so I took in upon myself to order it.
Anyways, this story is about Alex Haley's so-called "relative" Kunta Kinte,
his capture, and how he survives in bondage in America. No offense, but some
of the accents on some of the people were so ludicrous sounding. I mean,
everyone can tell they're CLEARLY from New York or something, not the Old
South. I guess they didn't care though. But still why don't they try picking
people with less strong accents. It's pathetic. Let us go through the
different chapters briefly together.
Chapter I: Well, this basically talks about Kunta's life and Africa, it was there to basically discount the myth that African "ni##ers" were savages. I liked how they showed the respectable ceremonies and how Kunta was trained to be a man and whatnot. It also showed the true savages, the slave ship captains. Especially the slater guy. He was such a scumbag. He was also tried justyfying his racist @$$ statements by ending the sentences like,It's for their own good"--"They're SUITED to be slaves" --"It's good for the crew to bang the wenches." Yuck! Kunta and his friend Fanta and whole lot of other Africans also get captured.
Chapter II: I believe in the beginng they're still in the ship; then it gets to the part where the Africans revolt i almost worked. Too bad they didn't do an "Amistad" and sail the ship back to Africa. Lol. I liked this part because it showed how they revolted. Kunta gets sold to another ignorant, racist caucasoid who also stereotypes by saying idiotic things like, "How can anyone see these people as any better than black monkeys?!" Ugh. Oh yeah this is also the part where Kunta gets whipped into submission by that *CREEPY* Ames character. Boy, was he scary. He was determined to make Kunta submit to him since he was an uppity ni^^er from africa who wouldn't know his role and shut his mouth. That scene didn't really phase me like it did others; that's ironic since I find the dude to be the most creepiest yet the most creepiest scene didn't get to me like it did others. Anyways, he gets whipped and it ends there.
Chapter III: Couldn't really get into this one to tell you the truth. Though it did show how slaves had their body parts cut off if they ran away; and how the pride of Africa was still in some of them; I didn't like it as much as I liked the first, second, fourth, and sixth chapters.
Chapter IV: I liked this one out of all of them; because it shows the impact of slavery on teens like me ;-) . I really felt sorry for the Kizzy character and the Noah character, I wanted to slap the Missy Anne chick, she was the real "wench" here, lol. I don't want to spoil it so I won't go in depth about it. Also like I said I felt sorry for Noah cause he was basically a young version of toby/kunta, uppity proud and a-wantin' ta be free! But that stupid a$$ ogre looking overseer Ordell kept hanging on his nu#*sack until he had no breathing room left. Kizzy, Toby/Kunta's kid, also get violated by that ever-smiling new "massa" Moore. We don't SEE the rape, thank goodness; we do see him grabbing her from behind and her straining to get away, then it cuts to the next scene where she's bruised. The chicken george guy she gives birth to didn't really interest me.
Chapter V: I didn't like this tape; it bored me. Sorry! It's basically about how Chicken George goes to England to pay back his debt for his master. Yawn. And who wants to see a bunch of fighting cocks? I did like the latter part though.
Chapter VI: I liked this chapter. It talks about a guy named Tom and he's being harassed by white soldiers. What I didn't think was real though, was that George Johnson boy. I mean sure there were sympathetic whites back then, but it just went too far sometimes. Like *spoilers ahead* at the end they bow down and do that African like ritual, he's with them and he's into it like it's nothing and he does it naturally; um, he's not the least bit uncomortable doing some "heathen" hasn't he heard the sterotypes about how inferior Africa and everything about it is; and he's doing that. Plus he's singing along with the blacks on the death of Abraham Lincoln like he's one of them or something. And what's up with him all reluncantly uttering thet word "ni&$#er" like he knows it's all un PC and he's just being righteous about it. Puh-lease; people didn't see it as a bad word back then, so shut up george!!! But it was a good ending, and when Alex Haley talks during the end, it's even grander!!! I hope you like it cuz it's a outstanding history lesson ! **** stars!
I think that different directors were assigned to different movies in the series... which could be the reason why movie began to grow weak after Kunta Kinte leaves the storyline. I thought the beginning was rather powerful... displaying the savagery of the white man's actions... entering the peaceful villages in Africa and pulling everybody out in shackles onto their ships' dark and musty cargo holds, and slowly, try to bring the main character into submission once he arrives in America. The rest is...Watchable... but has much less to offer than the first 3. Oh well... how much can you expect from a TV movie.
One of the greatest & most successful series ever screened. I was in my 20's when it came out &, as in the US, over here in England it was a massive hit. Not only was it great entertainment but a wonderful history lesson too. A powerful epic charting the lives of generations of the Kunta Kinta family, above all it is so thought provoking. I am sure this, as much as any other factor, delved deep into the American psyche & helped white Americans (& white British) appreciate the awful times these slaves went thru & enhanced everyone's understanding of the black American cause, to be treated as an equal. The direction was brilliant,the actors superb & the script so intelligently written & with so many interesting characters that sprang to life on screen. Generally speaking, American actors are the best in the world & they have proved it time & again. Give them a good script they'll make the characters believable.
Probably my ex-wifes relatives in Alabama. My ex-mother-in-law once
said "Where you spose them black people get all their money?" It's so
ignorant that it's humorous.
Anyway, this is stellar. The realism is amazing. If you can make it through episode one, during the journey across the Atlantic, you'll survive the almost as unbarable scenes to come.
Slavery was perhaps the worst scar in American history, although of course we have many. Learning about the gravity of these mistakes will ultimately improve humanity and speed our evolution.
This is a film that offers you something. This is one of only a handful of films that offers to make you a more enlightened and understanding human being. "The Deer Hunter" is the same way, watch it next.
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