Back in March, I mentioned that filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds fame, was working on a movie about antebellum slavery wrapped in the format of a spaghetti Western. That movie, Django Unchained, hits the movie screens today. The film stars Jamie Foxx in the title role, and the cast includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson.
This is one of the trailers for the film.
Wiki describe the genesis and plot of the film:
In 2007, Quentin Tarantino, speaking with The Daily Telegraph, discussed an idea for a form of spaghetti western set in America’s Deep South which he called “a southern,” stating that he wanted “to do movies that deal with America’s horrible past with slavery and stuff but do them like spaghetti westerns, not like big issue movies. I want to do them like they’re genre films, but they deal with everything that America has never dealt with because it’s ashamed of it, and other countries don’t really deal with because they don’t feel they have the right to.”
In December 2009, Tarantino revealed that he had another project but wouldn’t reveal any details except that it was less epic in scale and in a different genre entirely from Inglourious Basterds and that he could finish it in a five to six month period of intensive writing. On May 2, 2011, it was confirmed that project was the “Southern” that he had talked about in 2007, with the title Django Unchained, featuring the revenge of a slave on his former master.
The movie was inspired by the Italian film Django, a 1966 Westen directed that “earned a reputation as being one of the most violent films ever made up to that point.” The title character in that Django is a drifter who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife.
Django Unchained has come into some controversy for its subject matter and content. Tarantino’s films are infamous for the use of the “N” word, and the term got a sometimes uncomfortable working in Unchained:
Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, “Django Unchained,” about a slave-turned-bounty hunter, doesn’t shy away from violence and language, including 110 uses of the N-word –- something the cast had to come to grips with while filming.
“These characters use the N-word because that’s what people said back then, and again if you don’t understand how ugly the time is, you don’t understand how bad— [Django] is to get through this time,” Kerry Washington told Access Hollywood’s Michelle Beadle, referencing Jamie Foxx’s Django character. “There were days when hearing that N-word over and over again would start to get a little uncomfortable and Jaime and I had these imaginary shields… we’d roll up our n-word shield,” she explained…
Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays plantation owner Calvin Candie, uses the word most often, but had trouble going there, according to his co-stars. Foxx said co-star Samuel L. Jackson helped motivate DiCaprio to immerse himself in the character and his language. “When Leo goes, ‘Buddy, I’m having a tough time with these words’ and then… Samuel Jackson [told him] ‘It’s just another Tuesday for us, get over that.’ And I told Leo, if you don’t go there then we don’t have a story. So the next day he walked [and] he didn’t even speak to me,” the actor recalled.
African American filmmaker Spike Lee has said that he will not see the film, which he describes as “disrespectful.” In a twitter comment, Lee said “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.”
Jamie Foxx talks about the film’s controversial nature in an artcle from Entertainment Weekly.com:
“An actor from New York or L.A., when they read the word “n—–” they go: ‘[Gasps]! This word!’” he says. “I’ve heard it. It was said to me several times to me as a kid. But I didn’t turn my back on the South. I still love the South, but I understood that it was part of the fabric.”
Shooting at the historic Evergreen Plantation in Louisiana, a place where actual slaves once toiled and suffered, also helped to put the entire endeavor into perspective. “It was tough shooting the movie,” he says. “It’s tough shooting when you’re in plantation row and that’s where your ancestors were persecuted and killed, and we were respectful of that.” He even brought his two young daughters to the location, although the plantation’s effect on them wasn’t as profound as the one it had on their father. “They looked at it like an amusement park,” Foxx says. “But they really understood, especially my older one, that this is where their ancestors came from, and my younger one, like any kid would do, just played around. She didn’t understand the significance then. But she will.”
My advice to movie-goers is: the number one thing to keep in mind is that this is, after all, a Quentin Tarantino film. His schtick is to create films about characters who are involved in situations of outrageous violence, and whose characters say outrageous things about the outrageously violent situations that they are caught up in. Nobody should go to see Django Unchained and expect a faithful rendering of American history. Being a Tarantino film, the least you should expect is that there will be blood, and lots of it.