Gualtiero Jacopetti – Addio zio Tom aka Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)

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Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco E. Prosperi, best-known for the groundbreaking shockumentary Mondo Cane, directed this bizarre and shocking look at slavery in America. Set in the deep South prior to the Civil War, Zio Tom finds Jacopetti and Prosperi travelling back in time aboard a helicopter to investigate the nuts and bolts of slavery as it happened in the United States prior to abolition. Along the way, the filmmakers go aboard a slave ship as frightened Africans are brought to America under inhuman conditions; they witness the dangerous and degrading process by which slaves were made ready for market; and they visit a “breeding farm” for slaves after laws prohibit the importation of slaves from abroad. Also included is a sermon from a preacher who argues for the moral and spiritual necessity of slavery (while another man speaks out against it strictly on grounds of economics and practicality); the contrasting thoughts of men and women on the matter of miscegenation; and an interview with an educated slave who feels his circumstances are better for him than conventional employment. Also shown is the brutal torture and punishment of slaves for any number of real or imagined grievances. Re-creating both the opulence and the ugliness of the Old South on a grand scale, Zio Tom concludes with present-day African-Americans reading The Confession of Nat Turner and contemplating violent overthrow of the white-dominated culture. Understandably controversial, Zio Tom received a very brief theatrical release in the United States under the title Farewell Uncle Tom, where it received an X rating from the MPAA despite being trimmed by approximately 20 minutes from its original Italian running time. Continue reading

Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi & Paolo Cavara – Mondo Cane 1 (1962)

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Mondo Cane literally translates into English as ‘dogs world’ which is an apt title for this film, the own that spawned the so-called ‘mondo’ genre of shockumentary filmmaking.

What it claims to be, essentially, is a series of loosely knit incidents of a bizarre and unusual nature, masterfully edited into a structured documentary film with some narration thrown over top of it to attempt to place it into a social context or some sort.

What it is in reality is a sort of hybrid between a legitimate study of the strange world we live in, and the most crass of exploitation films. Littered with quite a bit of human brutality, very gratuitous animal violence, and what could be very easily construed as racist overtones, Mondo Cane is, even now over forty years after the fact, still a shocking film. Yes, time has aged portions of it better than others and some scenes, such as a group of senior citizen tourists learning the history of the Hawaiian Hula dance, are actually kind of mundane, there are still enough bizarre and grisly scenes contained herein to make it an interesting film and a historically important one at that. Continue reading