The Freeslave Movie Review…aka, Black Snake Groan

The ‘Magical Knee-grow’ Strikes Again

Rather than a shrunken head, he totes an acoustic guitar and a huge car chain. The plot is pure pimplicity:

Samuel L. finds a sleazy white fucktoid who craves the ‘black snake’ – black men, black dick – lying in a ditch near his property. We’re supposed to believe that this brotha would trifle with this ‘Backdoor Sal’, forgo the boots which she offers on a ritz cracker and all of a sudden gets enough religion to HEAL this evil wench.

I mean, white folks are insane. Every movie that Tinsel Town churns out is essentially one of the following formulas: White Man As God, White Man As God, White Man As Missionary, Lost White Man/Woman Who Needs a Kneegrow to Help Them Find Themselves & Their Long Lost Love

It reminds me of when Angela Bassett (Waiting To Exhale) uttered that fateful line ’bout her husband though she was really talking ’bout us: ‘you expected me to be background to your foreground.’

Lawn Jockey.

We are positioned by this white culture to either background invisibility or foreground monstrosity. White people have a desperate need to be served or frightened by us. We are healers or scapegoats, mammies or monsters, sex fiends or soul savers.

Films constantly reflect this. Last King of Scotland – the Gorilla helps the misguided white Scot earn his spurs. Reign Over Me a new film with Don Cheadle (sporting a title without irony), Black Snake. In Training Day, Denzel shepherds Ethan Hawke through the rites of passage into black manhood. Queen Latifah helps Steve Martin crank up a woodie and get the girl in ‘Burning Down The House.’

When are we going to make our own films? With all the juice that Denzel and Halle and Jamie have, how come we aren’t creating a real Black Cinema, where we control all the positions in front of and behind the camera, where we WRITE the scripts, tell OUR stories? With digital, films can be made incredible inexpensively and can be very profitable. Why don’t we get that?

Well, I want to make movies, I want to ‘change the game’ as my hero Goldie says – who’s with me?

31 Responses to “The Freeslave Movie Review…aka, Black Snake Groan”

  1. Damn Man… this post sizzles!

    I remember watching an interview with Eddie Murphy “back in da day”, when both he and Spike were the “big tings” in Hollywood. The interviewer asked him, with “da juice” they both had at the time, if they had spoken about doing something together. Eddie laughed and said that even though he and Spike were BIG in Hollywood, whenever they talked about doing something that may call the white establishment out, he noticed that they would subconsciously…. start whispering. He indicated that the bigger you were as a Black star, the more you had to lose if you challenged the system.

    I was wondering if I should see this film. I read somewhere that it was produced by John Singleton. I think from your review that I will wait for it to come on the movie network.


  2. H-Wood’s still a plantation. Denzel did do Antoine Fisher which I liked but, damn!! Can’t we take it beyond that. Suzanne DePass was supposed to have done “A Taste of Power” by Elaine Brown head of the Black Panther; thats been on hold for 15 years.

    People scared.

  3. You are right about Antoine Fisher! I thought that was a very inspirational film for Black/African males. Of-course… no Oscar nominations (that I can remember anyway).

    “A Taste of Power” would be an amazing film… or “The Shadow of the Panther” about Huey Newton and the BPs. I could see Will Smith as Huey…. not sure if that would be good or bad though.


  4. There are so many stories to be told…

  5. stereotypes are a tag that will never escape black cinematic efforts regardless of where they are from. it is a sad fact but one that we ourselves have a part to play in. (tyler perry — he is the MAIN culprit and so is martin LAWRENCE and Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor escapades).

    I think many white-directed films centred on a black experience do reek of stereotypes. however it is a depressing fact that black directed movies don’t get as much press as white ones. it is still a racist sphere that we are living in and people are just grabbing on to whatever scraps they can. i think stories such as LKOS are very important and despite some aspects being sensationalised, i think that film was very true to the East African political experience of Amin and what he did to the tribes and aimed to be real (Whitaker even spoke Swahili). The film was only flawed with the inclusion of its’ characterisation of Garrigan. But does he represent many white people coming to Africa thinking they can save it? *NODS HEAD*

    african cinema in itself is really coming up.nollywood (nigerian films) are on fire and not to mention south african titles such as Tsotsi. Is a trend emerging? I hope so and I hope it thrives.

    ‘A Girl Like Me’ was a good signal for the future of Black diasporan film-making. Kiri Davis did a great job.And ‘City of God’ and ‘Favela Rising’ too.

    Maybe we just need people to continue working hard to produce real work and once we start listening — will the world follow?


  6. Within a system of racism/white supremacy, we are offered financial compensation to sell out and tell these stories. But who controls the studios?

    It was interesting because I read something by Chuck D. I think who wrote most of the heads of the companies putting out hiphop are Jewish; he asked the rhetorical question of, if these were Jewish artists running down THEIR women and THEIR culture, how would that be tolerated? Obviously, its not going to happen.

    Jews are always telling the same holocaust story 3500 ways every fucking year. And it took place in GERMANY. Why the fuck would that be unless they also wanted to obscure a system that privileges them as white here – when they were considered non-white in Germany. This is madness.

    You know, A, I was really enamored of ‘City of God’ and I still like it on a certain level; but, I was speaking with a Brazilian dude and asked him if he liked it and he was like NO! He told me what he didn’t like and I watched it again and it was like I was looking at the surface sheen but had failed to see how all the bodies dropping were anonymous, meaningless, dehumanized. We, the viewers felt no compassion for all of the homicide going on, didn’t identify with the folks being stylistically slaughtered.

    He taught me I have got to keep looking deeper. I still ‘like’ the movie and see the contradictory areas also.

  7. Thanks for posting this… I at least know now that I’m not the only one.

    I thought I was going crazy when I saw the trailer of this movie about a month ago… the preview and the title disturbed the hell out of me. I had to pinch myself. I wondered how this kind of movie could be made out in the open…. in 2006/07.

    I then brushed it off….assuming that there had to be more to the movie. I just couldn’t believe that it was what I thought it was. Sometimes you get those movies that seem to be one thing, but end up as something different once it is finally released. Sometimes what you might see as obvious doesn’t end up playing out… the writers/directors of some movies like to trick the audience. I was hoping to God that this was the case with this movie.

    This has to be one of the sickest movies (for us) in a long time…. even worse than Monsters Ball… (I thought that movie basically played on the same stereotypes and was just as twisted).

    And i’m just trying to imagine all the black folks carrying their asses to the theater to watch this sickness….. all because Mr. Jackson is in it.

    Sometimes I feel like i’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone…


  8. Oh, its very sick Angry. I was stunned at how many positive reviews this shit got here in Portland. But then, you have ask ‘what do white folks see in this film that is so redeeming?’ And its THEM! (sorry, I’m in caps mode)

    I mean, Christina Ricci? Justin Timberlake? That’s who you build a movie of white redemption about? And Samuel L. the witch doctor???? Lord ham mercy!

  9. i couldn’t stand monster’s ball. the fact halle berry received the Oscar for that role just made me realise that black women still have a long way to go in cinema.

    i’d love to see a film version of ‘the bluest eye’.
    and asa, will smith as huey newton sounds compelling!

    or a marcus garvey biopic — david oweleyo from LKOS?


  10. Two thumps way up for that post FS!

  11. aulelia, let’s make a movie!

    thanks, field. will you represent me when they put me on lockdown?

  12. Yo, free, this is an AWESOME post!

    I’ve seen the trailers for this movie several times over the past few months and it appears to be more revolting to me than “Monster Ball.” When Halle Berry won the Oscar that night, I almost puked! To my way of thinking, that was a bigger cinematic setback for Black people than all of those “nigger” jokes in “Blazing Saddles”. I still wonder how in the HELL they are able to hold that miserable film up as progress and cinematic achievement!

    If Samuel L. Jackson (finally) gets an Oscar nod for this… I will never go to the movies again!

    And NO, I’m not going to see Ms. Ricci and her Black Snake!!!

  13. Dropped in to say I like this blog. Oh, and if Hollywood’s going to make another Holocaust movie, they could at least make one about the Black Germans.

  14. FS – thanks for the post. Hated Monster’s Ball!

    Won’t see this film – just seems completely wrong. I don’t want my money supporting more images and media that support hateful and hate provoking images… just won’t do it.

  15. Thanks, Plez, Violette and BWB. This shit is bad. I’ve reached this point where some of this stuff I need to see just to really understand how bad it is.

    I don’t ever want to see no Black Snake ever again!

  16. I’ve never seen Monster’s Ball, and I don’t intend on seeing this one. When I saw the preview, it was one of those cringing moments.

    How about ‘ White Man/Woman as Savior to our children in the ghetto’ – a la that Hillary Swank movie. Like the history of our people isn’t littered with Black Hero/She-ro teachers who saved generations of OUR children.

    But, we’ll never see THAT story, will we?

  17. Now that I think back on ‘Monsters Ball’, i’m reminded of just how sick that movie was. First they portray Halle’s character as an uneducated, unfit mother… then they want us to see how she screws the white stranger who happened to be one of her husbands executioners (how twisted is that shit?). As if that’s not bad enough…. after she finds out that this white man was in fact one of her husbands executioners…. they want us to see how she stays with the white man and lives happily ever after…knowing full well what happened, rather than leave him. And this is after she is called the N-word by his family. There are so many twisted parts to that movie that it can make a man go crazy.

    Not to mention the disgusting “love” scene… more like humiliation scene.

    And this was the worst acting from Halle that I have ever seen…. some of the worst acting from any actress in fact. Yet there were all these people saying how great of a performance this was from Halle.

    Of course these reviews came mostly from white folks unfamiliar with Halle’s other work. So they had nothing to use as a baseline for comparison. They saw Monsters Ball and the sex scene and decided to give it good reviews…. they also probably liked how twisted and subservient she was in the movie. It must have appealed to their sick tastes and their sick sense of how a Black woman should be in that situation.

    Those of us who have seen damn near all of her movies and know good acting when we see it…we already knew that this was not her best work.

    Her best movies (in my opinion) were “Losing Isaiah” and the “Dorothy Dandridge story”. But her best acting EVER and some of the best acting that I have ever seen from any actress had to be her performance in “Queen”. I know you all remember that one. An outstanding performance. But she did not get much recognition (from the white Arts establishment) for those kinds of films. But as soon as she removes all of her clothes…. and allows herself to be used… (much like the old Slave Masters used their female slaves) then all of this praise comes out of nowhere.

    I think her winning the Oscar for that movie was a way for some people in the Arts establishment to mock her and to mock us. And an even worst twist of sickness came when Halle herself recognized the irony regarding taking her clothes off and where was the white Arts establishment when she made all those other movies. She basically succumbed and said something to the effect “maybe I should take my clothes off more often”…..probably not the exact quote….but that was basically what she was saying. I recall this from a couple of interviews she did a few years ago.

    This Black Snake Moan nonsense is basically the same thing…. a mockery of us. This movie seems like something out of the 1930’s. It seems like some kind of propaganda film that the KKK would make back in those days…something that they would sit and watch to get themselves fired up just before doing a lynching or a firebombing.

    Black male as beast….as King Kong….. out to attack our white women. Something must be done to destroy these Black monsters and to protect our precious white daughters.

    This whole topic just gives me a glimpse of how it must have been for Black folks to live 3, 4, 5 generations ago.

    And the sick twist in the end (just like the sick twist at the end of Monsters Ball) is that Blacks will actually go and spend money to see this film and put money into the pockets of those who wrote this sickness.

    And what in the Hell was Jackson thinking when he did this? He used to be a great actor.. used to be one of my favs…. Is he so broke that he has to accept every script that comes his way? Of course not…. he could have and should have declined. But then again… if it was not him… some other fool would have accepted the role eventually.

  18. […] The Freeslave Movie Review…aka, Black Snake Groan […]

  19. hi

    i just finished sleepwatching casino royale , the first scene was unbelievable , the black man was portrayed as a monkey man and 007 as a super hero , who caught the man in his own country . We can’t even find Osama, nor could we conquer vietnam.

    Black snake moan , the black man finally caught the white woman , and she is hot , and she wants it all the time . spare me. but there are some people who think that this movie is bridging the gap.

    Good Black Movies will never get made , because there is no outlet for them . Who owns most of the theaters , the theaters control hollywood .. So nothing is going to happen unless the stars invest thier money in opening thier own … Does Magic Johnson own his theater ? no he is in partnership with amc .

    There will always be holocaust movies , because the media is controlled by the jews.

    when the big “o” did beloved , it bombed . why ? Was it the part the sethe wanted to kill her children so they could not be slaves.

    Maybe I am getting old , but everything seems so diaphanous!

  20. Rikyrah: exactly. Missionaries, bringers of the light for us. Who made it dark? Who created the ghetto? Who created the conditions that offer Hilary Swank a job to save us – from them?

    Byrd, I think we can and MUST create Great Black Movies. Perhaps we change how they are shown, bypassing the traditional theater, creating our own community theaters, making it a more communal experience, bringing film to the schools, churches and other community institutions. Visioning where to go next is critical for our future in a lot of respects.

    Angry said: “I think her winning the Oscar for that movie was a way for some people in the Arts establishment to mock her and to mock us. ”

    This is an EXTREMELY telling statement because it is so fucking real. Its like with Terrence Howard getting nominated for ‘Hustle and Flow.’ He did a great job and he is a great actor AND, give me a fucking break. A pimp in 2005?! That’s the range we have – pimps and ho’s? OR, 3, 6 Mafia or whatever the hell their name is winning a fucking Oscar. You canNOT be serious!!

  21. I went to see ‘ I Think I Love My Wife’

    I just realized, as I posted about it on another board, why I liked and appreciated it so much.

    It was a Black-acted movie, about universal themes. I talk about all the time, with other Black folks, about wanting more options of us in movies. Of us being normal. Of us going through normal things. Of us trying to deal with the challenges that everybody goes through.

    THAT is this movie.

    Of course, there are things, here and there, in the movie, that only a Black person would comment on, and I’m glad Rock does it.

    I would definitely recommend it.

    As for Pride, get the hanky ready.

    This is another one of ‘Our’ true stories. Of another one of ‘Our’ heroes. ‘Our’ unsung heroes.

    Instead of 10 more ‘ White person comes to the ghetto and saves Black children’, we need 10 more Prides. I know that they exist. There are legions of Black Heroes and She-roes who went into education, and found a way to make a difference to generations of our youth.

    Every city with a sizeable Black population has one of those Heroes. I know it; and their stories need to be told.

    But, be ready to break out the hanky…but, nothing wrong with a good cry.

    We need to support movies like Pride and I Think I Love My Wife, because that’s the ONLY way we will get more of these positive movies.

    Are either of them ‘Oscar’ worthy?


    But, they are OUR stories, and they need to be told. I didn’t feel insulted watching them, and enjoyed the inspiration of Pride, and us living our lives like everyone else in I Think I Love My Wife.

  22. Sweet, Rikyrah! I’m going to check them out this week. I needed to hear that cuz I may have overlooked them.

    I saw “The Namesake” yesterday and cried like a baby. Indian film, but just to see brown people’s lives as subjects was great. Beautiful, beautiful film.

  23. This iz a HOT post & there is not much that I can say that hasn’t been already.

    I am refusing to see this mess flat out, even on bootleg (you know how I do). The title alone is enough to keep me away but when I saw the trailer, I threw up in my mouth a little bit. (Maybe I would have been more interested if it was “Black Snake Moan on a Plane”.) I see the film as an insult & Black people still trapped in the Matrix need to wake the fuck up & stop seeing these crappy movies.

    As far as “Monsters Ball” goes, I was let down that Halle gave it up like she did (same feelings with Halle or another Black actress). The sex scene was a throw back to Massa creppin’ in the slave shack throwing the man out & breaking off his piece of Black lovin.

    The following year at the Oscars when Halle & Denzell both won I think it was a shame that they got honored for roles that are so counter Black consciousness but at the same time I was happy to see them celebrated (does this make any sense).

    I gotta put The “Namesake” higher on my movie priority list. It looks really good & it is good to see movies that are positively focused on minorities & our realities

    Sorry but I am not going to see “Pride”. 1) I don’t like sports & 2) I am sick of seeing these pics where Ghetto kids overcome bad odds. This was my life, I don’t need to keep seeing it over & over again @ the movies.

    I am looking forward to seeing “I Think I love my Wife”. I heard some really positive things about this.

    Ok I am almost done, last Friday I went to see “Shooter” & it was awesome & one of the things I peeped was that it had a very good racial mix & Danny Glover plays an awesome bad guy but now I have to saw that he is somewhat Magical. Anyway one of the trailers before the movie started was for the film “Talk to Me”.

    Talk to me is about Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, an outspoken ex-con who talked his way into becoming an iconic radio personality in the 1960s in Washington, D.C. Sparked by both the era’s vibrant soul music and exploding social consciousness, Petey openly courted controversy at a white-owned station. Relying on his producer Dewey Hughes to run interference, Petey’s unprecedented “tell it like it is” on-air style gave voice and spirit to the black community during an exciting and turbulent period in American history.

    See the trailer here

    Sorry FS I did not mean to highjack, I got going & could not stop.


  24. BTW, thanks for introducing me to the term Magic Negro, I have never heard of this before. I did a mini post on the term last night.

    You do not have to publish this, just a note from me to you.


  25. Ahh, man! I would love to see a movie depicting the life of Toussaint L’Overture. They won’t produce of film about him though because he defeated Napoleon. Great post!

  26. Byg, you can hijack all you want to. I remember Petey Greene for sure, with his gravely, Miles Davis voice telling it like it is. I don’t think Mom wanted us listening to him to much. He had a television show on public tv if I’m not mistaken. That’s where I remember checking him out.

    Bess, isn’t amazing? There are so many amazing stories of ours like that but we don’t tell them. Denzel, Morgan, Halle, Angela…with all the juice, the money we have we can’t get these stories told?

    I really believe that Hollywood will not allow stories that are truly heroic – Martin Luther King, the Panthers, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Toussaint – to be told, unless they are watered down if at all.

    But we’ve got to do it.

    Hell, you’re a photographer! I’m a videographer/writer!!

    Let’s make movies, baby!!!

  27. of course hollywood is racist even white people know that. just don’t go to the fucking movies read a book or something it is crap even when it isn’t bigotry.

  28. I wonder if such a movie might get better distribution if there was a way of bypassing movie theater chains entirely (which I think are another obstacle to making something good) and distributing instead by the internet somehow-DLing and then having home showings, or something similar?

  29. I just watched Black Snake moan. It was an excellent movie. Was an interesting story – like a book. The black snake isn’t anything to do with a black man’s penis. The black snake was the theme of his song!

    Most people trying to criticize it are doing so because they haven’t the gumtion to realise that it’s a good film. Because it’s black…and snake..they think ‘Black men have got big di**s’.

    The girl was abused as a child and went with white, black…anybody.

  30. freeslave, this film has just shown its’ face in paris. i saw one film poster for it when i was walking in a metro station. it just made me feel sick: it looked like it had overly sexual tones in it with the girl crouching down by sam l. jackson and the the lack of clothes she had on to contributed to that.

    i shouldnt judge a book by its’ cover but…

  31. I just stumbled onto this site after seeing Black Snake Moan. I really enjoyed the movie, but wondered how others came away with; a different perspective. I am so glad that I did. I am white, but I was raised in a home where skin color, nationality, ethnicity nor religion was ever an issue. This world would be not be the same without all of our differences. What I have never been able to understand is the predjuce that African-Americans still endure. After reading “The Magical Knee-grow” article, I got a completely different perspective, not just of “Moan,” but of the film industry at large. The writer also mentioned that, ‘We are positioned by this white culture to either background invisibility or foreground monstrosity. White people have a desperate need to be served or frightened by us.’ This statement completely ROCKED MY WORLD tonight. Things have ‘supposedly’ been getting better since 1965, but the injustices portrayed either by the media, politicians, or your neighbor on the street, NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE TO FEEL invisible or monstrous. I know that a lot of people will come away with a similar good feeling after seeing the movie, but I hope they take the time to gain a broader perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: