Black Writers’ Varying Views of ‘Django’

For each one of the film's virtues, prominent African Americans have found a vice.

Quentin Tarantino‘s ‘Django Unchained’ has become embroiled in the second major controversy of awards season,” Steve Pond wrote Wednesday for the Wrap. “The director’s liberal use of the N-word, and his temerity in tackling the issue of slavery, has drawn fire from some prominent African-Americans and impassioned defenses from others.

“Like the turmoil stirred up by the depiction of CIA-sponsored torture in Kathryn Bigelow‘s ‘Zero Dark Thirty,’ the ‘Django’ fuss has been caused by a filmmaker tackling a hot-button issue.

Ishmael Reed wrote at Speakeasy . . . that the movie ‘was the talk among blacks during two Christmas parties that I attended,’ comparing African-Americans who said they wanted to see ‘Django’ to ‘When Time Ran Out: Coming of Age in the Third Reich’ author Frederic Zeller, who said that as a child he applauded the Aryan characters in pre-World War II German cinema.

” ‘Django,’ he wrote, is an ‘abomination’ that distorts history: ‘It’s a Tarantino home movie with all of the racist licks that appear in his other movies.’

“On The Root, . . . writer Hillary Crosley said she was one of only about 10 African Americans who attended a screening of the film that was followed by a Q&A with Tarantino moderated by director Peter Bogdanovich.

” ‘[A] black woman interrupted their conversation, saying, “A lot of black people are not going to like this movie. I’m about to have a heart attack,'” wrote Crosley, who defended the film. ‘Then a few audience members began to heckle Tarantino from the balcony, shouting: “This is bulls—.” ‘ Tarantino, she said, offered to speak to the hecklers later.

“The movie has become both a flash point and a free-for-all, and the issue is particularly sensitive among African-American viewers — not a large audience for the film, but a key one for principals like Jamie Foxx, who plays the title role.

” ‘If this movie does what it does and black people hate it, that doesn’t do nothing for me,’ Foxx said on BET. ‘Because I feel like the reason I exist is the black audience.’ “

Released on Christmas, “Django Unchained” ranked second in weekend box office receipts, behind “The Hobbit.”