Quentin Tarantino's slave epic scores stellar cast

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With the latest addition of Kerry Washington, the already distinguished cast of Quentin Tarantino’s next film, the slavery-themed western Django Unchained, is getting a bit more impressive. She is joined by Jamie Foxx (who plays the lead role), Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Don Johnson, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Washington will star as Broomhilda, the long-suffering slave wife of Django (Jamie Foxx), who is freed by a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) and taught the tricks of that trade. Django’s real desire is to be reunited with his wife, who winds up in distress while being held up in a variety of unsavory places. The film builds up to a confrontation on a ranch owned by the notorious Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Some people have been outspoken and critical towards the raw look at slavery the film is purported to depict. Tambay A. Obenson of the film blog Shadow & Act had an opportunity to read the the script for Django Unchained and was disappointed that a reputable actress like Kerry Washington would take on a role in a film with what he considers degrading scenes.

She’s the lead female in the film, but her part is limited to really just physicalities. She has the most screen time of any other woman in the film, which is why I call her the lead female character, but, really, there’s no Shosanna in this one, as there was in Inglorious Basterds. The black female “lead” here doesn’t get the same kind of dignified treatment that Tarantino gave Shosanna. Not even close. Yes, I know it’s a different time altogether, but, I’m sure he could have afforded Broomhilda some complexities, and maybe even made her a heroine in her own right.

There are some 4 or 5 scenes in which the she’s, shall we say, “exposed”… i.e. naked; and they felt gratuitous to me; 2 in which she’s raped by white men. When we first meet her, she’s on the auction block and asked to bare her breasts to potential buyers; later, she’s chased through a hotel, through hallways, and lobbies, etc, by a slave master, completely naked, after being woken up from sleep, with a whip across her naked body; and still later, she’s locked up naked in a steel box as punishment for trying to run away.

Tarantino has had other controversial run-ins with the black community in the past. He payed homage to the blaxploitation era with the 1997 film Jackie Brown starring Pam Grier. But he drew fire for that film’s copious use of the n-word and was strongly rebuked by his film-making contemporary Spike Lee.

According to Variety, Tarantino wrote the script for Django Unchained with Will Smith in mind as his first choice to play the lead. To take part in the film, Smith would have had to give up his usual salary of $20 million. Although Smith has reportedly been seeking edgier roles he turned down the part.

Even without Smith, Tarantino’s latest film endeavor has a stellar cast that is poised to become a box office smash.

With an expected release of Christmas 2012 there will definitely be much more buzz to develop in the months to come.