❝Only in Hollywood could a movie that’s “based on a true story” endure heaps of criticism for being too unrealistic and still manage to walk away with multiple awards. Indeed, in the grand tradition of previous Best Picture winners like The King’s Speech and A Beautiful Mind, three of this year’s biggest Oscar contenders — Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, and Argo — have claimed, to varying degrees, to be based on real events. But historians, reporters, and even government officials insist that these movies are playing awfully fast and loose with the truth.❞
Next month marks the 35th anniversary of Roots, the 1977 miniseries that brought the subject of slavery to the water cooler for Black and White discussion in a major way during the post-Civil Rights era. Starting Friday night, BET will air all six episodes of Roots over the entire weekend. Two days after Roots: Part 6 fades to black, director Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated slavery-era action flick Django Unchained opens nationwide Christmas Day. As these two competing slave narratives vie for attention (a White filmmaker’s romanticized version vs. an iconic Black writer’s ancestral history), now might be a good time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
First of all, Django Unchained could’ve gone horribly wrong. However brilliant a director, Quentin Tarantino is famous amongst people of color for fetishizing African-American culture, and his liberal use of the N-word in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown still rankles folks 15 years after the fact. Tarantino injecting a Blaxploitation-style baadassss freed slave into his vision of the antebellum South could’ve been disastrous. The director’s recent comments about Roots, which he has described as “inauthentic” also raised the eyebrows of many filmgoers who were already nervous about what his slavery narrative would bring. Any crass, gratuitous depiction of Whites raping actress Kerry Washington in a popcorn movie, and Django Unchained would’ve been a wrap.
❦ Citizen Kane: “As well as its visual artistry, the film was narratively unconventional with a non-linear story and was also notable for bucking the trend of the studio system of the time. Instead of being controlled by this system, which was at its zenith, Citizen Kane was made with complete freedom so Welles and his collaborators were allowed to do whatever they liked—which was unprecedented.
They also harnessed the technological achievements and breakthroughs of the time to create a truly cutting-edge piece of filmmaking. To add to all these manifold glories it’s entertainment as high art, an art film that has mass appeal with a gripping populist story—one which follows the scandalous life of media mogul Charles Foster Kane (inspired by William Randolph Hearst)—and comes complete with a great twist ending, ticking all the boxes you need, thus confirming its inclusion in film studies classes ever since.”
❦ “Another of his projects which revealed his mischievous side was his sort-of-documentary F for Fake (1973), which focuses on the story of art forger Elmyr de Hory and his biographer Clifford Irving, who was himself partial to creating fake works, notably a biography of Howard Hughes. It’s a mind-bending film which constantly plays with the idea of truth, challenging the viewer and confronting them, toying with what’s real in both Hory’s work, Irving’s role as his biographer, and the story that the film presents to us. You’ll left not knowing what’s fiction and what’s fact.”