Two documentary filmmakers go back in time to the pre-Civil War American South, to film the slave trade.Two documentary filmmakers go back in time to the pre-Civil War American South, to film the slave trade.Two documentary filmmakers go back in time to the pre-Civil War American South, to film the slave trade.
The movie is certainly disturbing, and it did indeed enrage me that ancestors of mine took part in this treatment of fellow human beings. But the movie lost me whenever it tried to create a parallel between the climate between blacks and whites in the 1800s and the 1960s.
Not that there weren't (and, unfortunately, still are) problems with racial tension in this country, but the movie seems to think that the average black person is still a savage at heart, just waiting for the right moment to break out an axe and slaughter the first white person he comes across. The movie climaxes with a radical black man reading The Diary of Nat Turner and imagining doing just that, including a horrific moment in which he smashes a baby's head against the wall.
To me, the movie seems to have a negative opinion of just about everyone. Obviously, due to its decidedly anti-slavery stance, the slave traders are viewed as sick, inhuman monsters with only the faintest mask of civility on the surface. But the African characters are portrayed largely as ignorant buffoons, too dim-witted to understand what's happening to them.
Later, during the modern day scenes, the sole black character is shown as having a major chip on his shoulder that has driven him nearly insane with rage, while the white people are a bunch of care-free bubble heads. Such generalizations and lack of depth or character development greatly lessens the power the movie may have had.
But, as a purely gut-busting exercise in sleaze and disgusting imagery, GOODBYE UNCLE TOM sits confidently alongside other such gross-out movies as CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, SALO and MEN BEHIND THE SUN. Also, like those movies, GUT (hmmm, interesting abbreviation) goes so outrageously over-the-top in depicting its atrocities, most of the movie's true power is lost, and it becomes little more than a freak show.
I hesitantly recommend the movie for fans of sick cinema as a curiosity. I warn pretty much everyone else to stay far, far away.
- Aug 16, 2004