1970s Influence Post–20th-Century Films on American Slavery
This chapter insists that films are the most visible monuments to slavery in the United States and that memories of slavery crucially shape African American identity formation. Miniseries like Roots and The Book of Negroes also demonstrate the possibilities of capturing the complexity of slavery from the perspective of enslaved Africans rather than white slavers. Ed Guerrero recognizes that this shift in viewpoint gained mainstream momentum due to the Black Power movement with studios attempting to attract black audiences with cinematic adaptations like Mandingo (1975), Drum (1976) and Roots. Independent filmmaker Haile Gerima filmed Sankofa (1993) over a twenty-year period starting in the 1970s. This chapter shows how post-20th century films about slavery can benefit from cinematic adaptations of the 1970s. It examines the format, economic data, narrative focus, casting, reception, and genre of a sampling of films to demonstrate how exploring or exploiting the perspective of the enslaved may affect subsequent films.
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