This is a very peculiar film, made by Gualtiero Jacopetti (MONDO CANE) and Franco Prosperi. Most of its running time consists of lavishly produced yet thoroughly repugnant recreations of the capture, shipping, processing, abuse and servitude of African-born slaves in the mid-1800s American South, with various characters breaking the fourth wall at times to address the Italian camera crew. For all this, the film insists on its right to be called a "documentary," yet it's also a film made by white men who, in the considerably longer Italian version, call for the slitting of the white man's throat.
Exclusive to this version is a lot of documentary framing material from original and various news sources, narrated in such an incendiary, inciting tone that the US distributor cut it out, which had the further commercial effect of getting rid of its Godardian arthouse political conscience and making it more purely wall-to-wall exploitation. There is something mad about the picture that relates it to all of Jacopetti's work; it takes brutal, solemn subject matter and serves it up with a Felliniesque twinkle. It's awash in self-loathing. It scores some of the most offensive highlights of our nation's history with ravishing orchestral music by Riz Ortolani, whose "More" theme for MONDO CANE won an Academy Award.
Naturally, one's response to the picture can't help but be similarly divided. But this is the only one of Jacopetti's "documentaries" that doesn't feature the graphic abuse or killing of animals, so it's the one to seek out for the timidly curious. If you want to experience this world in a way that will present it to you without the Hollywood gloss of MANDINGO or DJANGO UNCHAINED, in a visceral way that will take up residence in your gut, this is the film to see.
Viewed on Blue Underground DVD. Both versions of the film are available as part of their box set release THE MONDO CANE COLLECTION.