Burton was in town for the taping of “Pioneers of Television“–which includes an installment focusing on “Roots“–when a TMZ photographer caught up with him. The interview got off to a somewhat awkward start when the photog suggested that Jamie Foxx, as “Django,” and Burton, as “Kunta Kinte,”played the two most famous fictional slaves in history–a remark that did not bode particularly well (see arched eye brows) with the Roots actor.
Burton laughed off the comment but the photog then mentioned that, while many people grew up on Roots, the younger generation is raving about Django Unchained. Putting the debate to rest, Burton explained the difference between the Emmy Award-winning television mini-series and the Academy Award-nominated Tarantino film.
“Well, here is what I want folks to understand: Django is a fantasy. It’s not history. Roots is history.”
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For those who will want to add his name to the list of critics who have been lambasting the “Spaghetti Western,” don’t. In an interview with Ebony, Burton had this to say about the film:
I did not know that it was a comedy. I was unprepared. I saw it Christmas Day. I had heard about it, I didn’t do much reading about it. I knew that there was a controversy over language but I did not think it would be so funny. I thought Sam Jackson was brilliant. And the acting was superb — Leo, Jamie. Quentin Tarantino does very well this sort of adolescent fantasy on steroids. For whatever reason, Quentin really does enjoy putting people of color in his movies, so you’ve got to bless him for that.
“When you look at Roots, nothing about it rings true in the storytelling, and none of the performances ring true for me either,” said Tarantino. “I didn’t see it when it first came on, but when I did I couldn’t get over how oversimplified they made everything about that time. It didn’t move me because it claimed to be something it wasn’t.”
While it is true that portions of Roots (the book version) were later learned to be plagiarized, I agree with Burton distinguishing the difference between the iconic television series and Tarantino’s movie. Moreover, I applaud Burton for ensuring that his response did not mirror the belligerent commentary voiced by other Black critics of the film.
Of course, there is plenty to criticize in regards to Roots. But the series is clearly in a class of its own. And so is Burton.