Shockumentary Extreme Collection
By: Julian on January 28, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Blue Underground (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). Italian DD 2.0 Mono. English Subtitles. 275 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi
Starring: Starring Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi, Sergio Rossi
Country: Italy
Year: 199/1971
The third of Blue Underground's Mondo sets, which split up the 9-disc Mondo Cane Collection, consists of the two Directors' Cuts of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi's most notorious films Goodbye Uncle Tom and Africa Addio. The two films are in Italian with English subtitles and are vastly different from their English language counterparts, which have been reviewed in the Shockumentaries Volume 2 set. These completely uncut and uncensored versions of Jacopetti and Prosperi's masterpieces add over ten minutes of violent and political footage to each and have almost an entirely different narration, restored to what was scripted by the duo forty years ago. The differences, forced upon the documentarians by the films' distributors upon their initial release, changed the works entirely, bringing to light Jacopetti and Prosperi's political and sociological stance regarding both pictures' difficult subject matter.

The first film in the set is the 1966 opus Africa Addio. Like its English predecessor, the Directors' Cut of the film is an immensely difficult spectacle to watch. Africa Addio is a genuine documentary that took three years for Jacopetti and Prosperi to film, and it chronicles the fall of white rule in the Dark Continent. Through the lens of the Mondo duo, we see the trials and the (few) triumphs of the newly governed land. From the opening of the nature sanctuaries, which cues a number of vignettes containing devastatingly long scenes of animal slaughter, to the brutal rebels attempting to gain political and social control, Jacopetti and Prosperi don't let us off lightly. And neither were they – having narrowly escaped execution in Africa, the two and a number of their crew members returned to Italy to face a barrage of controversy, including infamous war crimes charges that threatened to put them behind bars. They were acquitted of the charges and the film was released in censored form.

Africa Addio is the veritable anti-documentary, as its makers themselves have described it – see herds of elephants peacefully grazing in a field one minute, witness them butchered brutally the next. Observe the refined culture of an African tribe before watching the aftermath of their full-scale genocide. Get to know two ethnic groups before viewing them kill each other to gain territorial domination. This is guerrilla filmmaking and an assault on the senses on par with a sledgehammer to the face. There are numerous differences between this version of Africa Addio and the eleven-minute lengthier Directors' Cut, however the most notable of these is the almost complete rewriting of the narration. Jacopetti and Prosperi were forced to significantly tone down their voiceover for one primary reason – it condescended the concept of a black-governed Africa. The narration here is considerably more political than that found within the English version, and it was presumably this cut that brought an African delegation to discuss the film before the United Nations. Further scenes have been added to strengthen the duo's sentiments in this regard, including tribal massacres and the 'oasis of Johannesburg'. Africa Addio is one of the finest documentaries ever made and serves the valuable purpose of being one of the most accessible primary sources of a continent in chaos.

The second film in the set, Goodbye Uncle Tom,goes under its Italian title Addio Zio Tom for its Directors' Cut version, and is equally shocking as its 1966 predecessor. Personally restored by Jacopetti, Addio Zio Tom is essentially a recreation of the 1800s era black slave trade in the United States, and further footage has been added that was excised from the English language version. Scenes of 'reverse racism', consisting of footage of the militant Black Panther group and the indoctrination of Afro-American children by their elders to hate white people, are complemented with Jacopetti and Prosperi's narration. Further (real) footage shot at Martin Luther King's funeral and of the riots that followed, as well as the speeches of prominent Afro-American figures in US society, are also included. It is easy to see why many of these scenes were removed, and why almost all of the narration was rescripted – while I don't believe that this cut is a racist tract, the superficial viewer could easily interpret it as such, and the content here pales in comparison to the controversial antics of the English language film. The film has undoubtedly become far more realistic with the inclusion of many genuine scenes observing race relations in the US today, at the expense of the English version's 'filler' sequences. Further scenes have been removed entirely or re-edited – the Nat Turner sequence that concluded the English version has been moved to earlier on in the film. This rearrangement is one of Addio Zio Tom's few downfalls. This was an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking way to conclude the film, and it loses much of its impact twenty-odd minutes before the end credits roll.

Addio Zio Tom is a genuinely uncomfortable picture to sit through. The graphic nature of the content is more than just violence – the mistreatment of the black slaves is genuinely appalling, and the scenes are portrayed here in a way that is much more than just voyeuristic – Jacopetti and Prosperi have clearly been motivated by their need to recount a criminally untold and mistold piece of American history. Subversive and utterly engrossing, Addio Zio Tom comes highly recommended.
Video
Both films have been presented in the widescreen 2:35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. The picture is excellent for both, particularly Addio Zio Tom, and the cinematography by fellow Mondo filmmaker Antonio Climati, as well as Claudio Crillo and Benito Frattari, is simply magnificent.
Audio
Both films have Italian Dolby Digital mono soundtracks, which are loud and clear. They are subtitled in English. I am quite an admirer of the work of composer Riz Ortolani, and his Oscar-nominated work on the Jacopetti/Prosperi films is exemplified in the pounding score for Addio Zio Tom.
Extra Features
None, however I have found an Easter Egg in the Addio Zio Tom disc. Select 'chapters' on the main menu of the DVD and arrow up with your remote control to highlight a chain. Press enter, and there is an Italian trailer for the film without audio.
The Verdict
If you think you've seen Africa Addio and Goodbye Uncle Tom entirely in their English versions, then you ain't seen nothin' yet. Vastly more controversial, the Italian narrations and re-edits brings forth an entirely different perspective and one that could have been seriously dangerous if released some forty years ago. Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi should be applauded, rather than condemned, for their efforts to chart the course of two pivotal pieces of world history. These two Directors' Cuts, lovingly restored by the ever-reliable team at Blue Underground, perfectly encapsulate the heavily political and sociological content of the duo's pictures, aspects that were dreadfully overlooked by the comparatively milder English versions. Buy this set now!

For the non-region free punter, Addio Zio Tom is an R0 disc, however Africa Addio is locked to R1.
Movie Score
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