Every year at BNAT there is an entry that's known as the "Family Fun Hour" film. One film that completely messes with everyone's heads and makes them question their sanity and the sanity of the filmmaker. That makes them sit there for two hours with a face full of "WTF?!" Last year it was Toys Are Not For Children. The year before it was Teenage Mother. And at my first BNAT it was Night Warning. This year, it was a film called Drum that, like Night Warning three years ago, had first shown at the Drafthouse as part of its "Weird Wednesday" series. In it's own way, it's awesome and a must-see. But it may just be the most offensive film ever made.
This film is blaxploitation meets slavery meets T&A. In a way, it's strangely fitting to have an exploitation movie about slavery. But I find it exceedingly ironic that this movie has been out there all this time - you can find it on VHS and DVD without too much trouble at all - and yet Song of the South was long considered offensive enough to have been banned and after about twenty years is finally going to be released next year. Maybe the fact that SotS was intended for children and made by Disney is the reason for that. But it's no less bizarre.
Drum is the eponymous hero of the film - the son of a slave and a white woman who doesn't know who his real mother is. The movie hits hard on the fact that sex between a white man and a black woman - while it had to be kept fairly quiet - was A-ok, but sex between a black man and a white woman was the height of taboo. In fact, that's pretty much the main point of the film.
This movie is like nothing I have ever seen about slavery in the South. And I have absolutely no idea whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe this stuff is at least partly true, and we were just never taught about it in school. While I know it was probably fairly common for some slave traders to buy slaves for the express purpose of breeding, the way it's emphasized in this movie - the way sexuality is emphasized in this movie - just seems perverse to me (perverse in the literary sense, not the literal one). One of the party scenes in the film reminded me of a "key party" of the 1970s. People pairing off with the nearest body, girls with their antebellum ball gowns hanging down so as to expose their breasts, etc. It just seemed a little too much to me. But I'm sure that was the idea of the filmmakers in the first place. There is a pretty significant homoerotic theme in the film as well.
The whole world of the film just seems ... hypersexual. Which I found odd, but I suppose that's the point of an exploitation film, after all. I don't hate the movie; in fact, I found it quite enjoyable, for the most part. It was just kind of weird to see it portrayed that way - as if sexual abuse was the only abuse that slaves suffered. Also, I think I've heard my quota of the n-word for the next several years. Hearing that word (unless it's Quentin Tarantino saying it in Pulp Fiction) has always made me tense up. I really hate it like no other English word. And perhaps hearing it spoken again and again hampered my enjoyment of this film.
Being an exploitation film, though, it certainly had it's (probably intentionally) funny moments. The biggest audience laugh came when one of the slave traders says to the woman who runs his house: "You ain't gonna meddle with my poon-tang, are you?" *DIESDIESDIES* As a funny movie, I guess it works quite well. I just boggle that this film hasn't yet fallen prey to our super-sensitive culture.