Slavery is Entertainment - Django Unchained, Cloud Atlas, Django Unchained

Slavery is Entertainment

Human beings are a cruel, vicious lot – if you really think you need evidence to back up that claim, start with the 40-DVD special on World War II. But if you’re looking for a very entertaining flick, I’d recommend you start with Django Unchained, which shows a movie with a black man riding a horse like he belonged on it ever since the dawn of the civilization. If that sounds like a spoiler to you, then you’re probably racist.

As for me, I absolutely enjoyed some of the parts of this movie and am quite sure you will too, as long as you’re used to Tarantino’s schtick. Some parts are all ugliness and brutality and conflict, others are full of wit and cleverness. It all leads up to a satisfying end, and a post-movie buzz that will last you for a while. Unless you happen to be white, and racist. Jamie Foxx puts up a performance that’s full of swagger and confidence, but then again he has the best lines – while Leonardo De Caprio and Samuel L Jackson have some great moments of chemistry, it’s just great to see two box-office superstars play period roles. The central conceit of the storyline is that it takes a white man to free a black person, that the freed slave has to be just as ruthless and vicious as his slave owners. Like Cinderella’s story, “The dark moral is that this only happens if you are lucky enough have a Fairy Godparent.” The movie seems relevant and valid if you view cinema as cultural therapy, historical revisionism, as a means to undo and heal some of the scars of slavery.

If you want some grim and gritty realism when addressing the subject of slavery, check out Bala’s amazing Tamil movie Paradesi, released earlier this year. The director is notorious for making shocking, provocative movies – his 2009 release Naan Kadavul was memorable, it pretty much convinced me that everything this guy made is worth subscribing to.  His latest release Paradesi  is based on real-life events in the 1930s – a chronicle of misfortunes of landless labourers in Tamil Nadu, who in their escape from drought, end up becoming indentured slaves to tea plantations run by the British empire. There’s plenty of black humour and satire, attacks on religion and brutal depictions of slavery – the conditions go from bad to worse, with no redemption or silver lining forthcoming. It’s a tale as tragic and gut-wrenching as Grave of the Fireflies or Kanchivaram

The Wachowski siblings achieved cinematic elysium with The Matrix back in 1998, and with reputations and egos as huge as theirs, you get something as monstrously bloated and convoluted as Cloud Atlas. There was no reason for the characters to play multiple roles – like some kind of incarnation, all the different period stories mashed up into a climax that doesn’t quite come together. The book had more revelations to offer than the movie.

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