Watch It: Goodbye Uncle Tom

This movie may be quite simply the most shocking, screamingly offensive blaxploitation movie of all time!!! is an unabashedly incendiary look at race relations in America during the early seventies that’s guaranteed to leave your jaw on the floor. This movie has it’s flaws, as critics like Robert Ebert have pointed out. However, I rank it right up there with Sankofa on the scale of movies that illuminate the horror, the absolute inhumane nature of the institution of slavery…no sugar coating.

The Italian filmmaking team of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi’s 1971’s GOODBYE UNCLE TOM (a.k.a. ADDIO ZIO TOM) (view it here) is an epic that puts the team’s documentary background to good use and outdoes all their other films in sheer outrageousness. Some would say that this pseudo-documentary is arguably the most shocking (yet effective) cinematic treatment of slavery and its consequences, surpassing all the others–ROOTS, MANDINGO, DRUM, AMISTAD, ILL-GOTTEN GAINS, BELOVED and MANDALAY. Well, I can say that this movie has something to anger just about anyone. Want to see it…there are some clips available on YouTube (I think the whole movie is on Google Movies). Here are some comments from others.

I thought this site summed it up well…

The movie is filmed as if modern filmmakers took a trip the antebellum south and recorded what they saw there, with an emphasis on the most inhuman stuff they could find. So, we get to see rape, torture, children being sold as sex toys, beatings, and just about everything else you can think of. Even when there are not massive amounts of violence on the screen, it’s still pretty disturbing. There’s a shot of a little white girl and a little black boy running through a field together; after a little while you realize the girl has the boy on a leash. And about every five minutes, there’s someone prattling on about the inferiority of blacks people. Much of the dialog comes from the actual letters and documents of time, so at least there’s some devotion to historical accuracy. I’m not sure how accurate everything else is, but even if only 10 percent of it is true, it would still be absolutely horrible.

In the end, Goodbye, Uncle Tom is not so much a racist movie as it is a completely tasteless movie. It’s like watching a John Waters-directed version of Black Like Me – whatever lessons about racism there are to be learned, they’ll be overshadowed by the scenes of transvestites getting hit in the face with colostomy bags. I have no problems with a discussion of race relations or the horrors of slavery, but bringing a Jerry Springer-type sensibility to it is a really bad idea. The movie stands as a testament to good intentions gone completely awry.

Robert Ebert says…

The movie gloats over scenes of human degradation. And this time there isn’t even the excuse of documentary; every scene in this movie was specifically staged. Unfortunately, Jacopetti and Prosperi have been able to find people willing to undergo the humiliation inflicted on them in “Farewell Uncle Tom“; most of the blacks in the film are apparently Africans forced by poverty and need to do these things for a few days’ pitiful wages.

This is cruel exploitation. If it is tragic that the barbarism of slavery existed in this country, is it not also tragic — and enraging — that for a few dollars the producers of this film were able to reproduce and reenact that barbarism?

Make no mistake. This movie itself humiliates its actors in the way the slaves were humiliated 200 years ago. A man without a hand is photographed shoving mash into his mouth from a trough. Very young girls are mocked in auction scenes. Pregnant women — women who are really pregnant — are corralled into a scene about the “breeding” of slaves. The fact that this film could find a booking in a legitimate motion-picture theater is depressing.

You can read the rest of Robert Ebert’s take here.

10 Comments

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10 Responses to Watch It: Goodbye Uncle Tom

  1. Susan

    This movie is so disturbing because it is the truth. People, particularly the European descendents, want this forgotten segment of history, forgotten. This, in spite of the fact that they continue to ensure African descendents in this country live in poverty, fear, and lack. I am most likely the only person in this country who has not viewed the movie, Roots. I made it through the first 20 minutes and quit viewing it. This film should be viewed by everyone who has a stake in the truth. What is the purpose of this film?

  2. david

    Oh please…the poverty the blacks live on are on the accord of their own lack of doing anything about their surroundings.The mexicans who come here even intergrate without problems and work.Unlike some”complianing”race who is crying wolf every time he/she never gets its way.

  3. me

    Were Mexicans beaten and sold as slaves in America? where they ripped from their families and treated like animals while picking Cotton for FREE….

  4. Kristin

    No, they were not so thanks for saying that me… Lol, so shut your bitch ass up David…

  5. junia davis

    i feel that this movie was an issue..and so was the real history n which my anscestors lived. i am black and damn sure of it i feel white people are hated by the fact that they are balck to we all our black ass many ass those white people fucked our black people and had babies by them it goes on to a generation on down. white people need to stop it why hate on something and you “have it all” but you dont you may get a slap on the hand more then we do but this racial shit and slave shit just made black people stronger yeah we sell drugs,make history become doctors and lawyers but don’t try to down us becuase your upset we have ever right to be complaining this world is cheating us. yeah mexicans have been sold into slavery yeah jews were in the hoacoste, and you white people are complaning for what reason some of you can be so childish…DAVID!!! and you are being self centred about this. slavery is history its apart of all of our history weather its the good or the bad what we need to reilize is not to make an example out of it live like we are united ass one its call united states for a fucking reason them set ourselves out and act like we our role models and have some sense, weather your black,white,yellow ,tan or blue and dont go by that color shit cuz we all know who turn every color in the rainbow and if anyone feel like this is personal then contact me!

    comming from a biomedical engineer!

  6. kim

    i think the movie was very vivid, it showed the truth about what really went on in the days of salvary. but i can say i do feel as if some white americans still feel as though black indeed do need to be treated this way in 2009. it is still not an equal america and ppl still treat blacks as the lesser race, where in actuality we were very humble ppl in africa, we were kings and queens, we treated everyone with equality unless said otherwise. i do think that blacks still have the sense of being slaves in this day and age. there will be a day when it will all change and we will not be judged by color of skin but by the good one does!!!

  7. pepe

    I preferred Goodbye Mr.Chips thanks.

  8. Jay

    Are all of you STUPID!? I have studied grindhouse films for years. “Farewell Uncle Tom” is nothing more than a group of Italian film makers attempt to create the most shocking film around and out do all of the other exploitation film makers. They wanted to shock and offend both blacks and whites. Prosperi and Jacopetti took an issue from historical fact and turned it into the most shocking bit of crap they could. Yes, terrible things did happen to slaves…they still happen in AFRICA, which is what we should be focusing on. I hope you all know that this film was shot in Haiti under the Duvalier dictatorship. The black extras were stripped and dehumanized for a bowl of rice. The director himself (Jacopetti) said that he thought that blacks were ‘less evolved’!!! Come on guys lets read up on some true historical documents and go from there…not look to this film for historical accuracy. Its whole point was to piss you off, that’s what makes the money.

  9. Josette

    As long as we remember We are the “CHOSEN one”….their day is coming & they know it….God Bless our American People!!!!

    We were never Niggers at all….He made us strong for a reason!!!
    God Bless our American People!!!!

    Sad…most will sell they’re soul to Goverment, The True Devils!

  10. jg

    @Jay.. I feel you on your statement. You can pick up on that at the beginning of the movie when they had there dinner round table discussion. When the waiter threw the chicken thigh on the ground for the kids under the table. They were downgrading the whites. Acting as if they have a heart and whites don’t. Divide and conquer. Keep confusion going. The makers of the movie are some SICK, PERVERTED, EVIL, SHIT STARTING AND ONGOING BASTARDS! Fat asses molesting, fondeling, groping these young girls, ugh, and all around humiliating all the Haitian people in the movie. I was speaking on that threw the whole movie. This shit aint right. Theres way too many people to compensate. Then you say under that dictator, yeah, damn what the movie was about, supposingly of our american history, I didnt like at all what was going on with the film PERIOD. Degrading to the tenth power times 100, pervertion, pure evil. This movie puts in the mind of that degrading porn company “Ghetto Gaggers”. Whole point is to shock, degrade, humiliate, weak, vulnerable, poverty struggling people. So sad. They have there day coming and have to answer to it all. How scarey is that to have to answer to such evil filth. Gods children. Thats scarey. Have mercy on there souls. Forgive us for we not know what we do.

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