FEB 10, 2017 SCREENING: ROOTS (1977) Part 4: 1806-1824
Like Episode 2, Episode 4 of Roots really picks up the story by making a new character the center of the action. In the second episode, it was Fiddler. Here, it’s the only daughter of Kunta Kinte/Toby. Leslie Uggams plays Kizzy (her name in African means “stay put”, as Toby explained at the end of the previous episode). She starts off as a naïve 20-something character, but has really grown and changed by the end of this episode as she comes smack in the face with the trials and tribulations of her family situation.
Episode 4 has another “nice” white person, and the character, Missy Anne is portrayed very well by Sandy Duncan. Missy Anne, the daughter of a plantation official, comes across as a well meaning but ditzy blond who genuinely considers Kizzy to be one of her best friends and treats her as such, even trying to educate her to read and write in private when she knows her father would disapprove. Of course, by the end of story, Kizzy ends up tragically separated from her family by her owners, and Missy Anne doesn’t lift a finger to protest against it.
The fact that slaves are property really hits home when Kizzy is sold to another plantation, never to see her parents again. There, she soon discovers that the new owner is a “nice” man in public, but privately beds all his female slaves, and she has no choice but to submit to being raped every night. Again, I found the saga of Roots to basically reveal an ugly truth about slavery here. While it may make audiences at home uncomfortable, it was an necessary truth about the reality of life in the early 1800s.
Poor Kizzy eventually is able to visit her parents plantation years later, only to find that her father died of old age a few years earlier. The climax of the episode ended with a scene that I felt was very “Hollywood dramatization” – where she scratches out the name “Toby” on the grave to write his true name, Kunta Kinte, instead. While the scene works, I can’t see it happening in real life.
The saga of Kizzy did work better as a whole than Episode 3, and picked up the place nicely. It also briefly introduced Kizzy’s son, leading the audience to have something to wonder about for the next installment.
*** out of ****