Whether Quentin Tarantino’s film, Django Unchained, should be viewed as a realistic or mythological portrayal of slavery in the U.S. dominated a panel discussion Thursday at Delaware State University.
Dr. Jerry Ward, known for his study of the work of Richard Wright, described the film as a very American film, a richly satiric cartoon. He said the filmmaker created a collage to shock the audience, offered moments to glorify in revenge and in some ways added to the romance of slavery.
Dr. Candice Love Jackson described the character of Kerry Washington as Broomhilda von Shaft as connected to the blaxploitation film legend John Shaft andshe looked at the film in the context of Tarantino’s handling of other heroines played by Uma Thurman and Pam Grier in such films as Pulp Fiction.
Several actresses, one on the panel and others in the audience of more than 100 people, debated their conflicts about roles that are offered but fall outside of the acceptable characters that might uplift or improve perceptions of African Americans. I was able to tie this point back to The Help and the difficulties Viola Davis faced first in accepting the role and finally in the Academy of Motion Pictures inability to reward her for that performance.
My presentation focused on the history of film as studied by Tarantino, his focus on spaghetti Westerns, blood, gore and language. The N-word is inescapable in this film. I distributed a quiz on African American film quotes and again, language is part of our relationship to film.
Dr. Marshall Stevenson of Del State set the tone for the discussion along the themes of sex and violence and how they are intertwined with American history. To them, I would add RACE.