Hazel S. from CARRIERE, MS Reviewed on 10/26/2010...
Very good! Makes you appreciate people that stood up for what they believed was right.
Stands on its own two feet
Timothy Hulsey | Charlottesville, VA United States | 05/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"African-American auteur Charles Burnett is best known for neorealist dramas like _A Killer of Sheep_, but his first foray into television is widely regarded as his masterpiece. The New Yorker's Terrence Rafferty proclaimed _Nightjohn_ the "best American movie of 1996." I agree.
The plot concerns Sarny, a twelve-year-old slave girl who learns to read, and uses her knowledge to expose and undermine the plantation power structure. Performances are excellent -- newcomer Allison Jones is especially good as Sarny -- and Burnett's direction is honest and forthright. Although _Nightjohn_ has a strong pro-education message, it is conveyed with plenty of suspenseful drama and a bare minimum of preachiness. Family filmmaking doesn't get better than this.
The _Nightjohn_ DVD, like the laserdisc edition before it, presents the film in its original full-frame ratio without supplements or bonuses. The transfer and sound are adequate -- and given the price, that's about as much as anyone can reasonably expect.
Note to parents: For a film that features no profanity, no sex or nudity, and only a few instances of onscreen violence, the PG-13 rating on this DVD seems excessive. _Nightjohn_ is not for young children, because it strongly suggests the horror and brutality of American slavery. But I'd recommend this film for ages 9 and up, with parental supervision. (Be prepared for a long, thoughtful discussion afterwards.)"
Freedom is Reading!
Oni Lasana | Philadelphia, PA United States | 01/01/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love this movie, the first time I saw it was at a showing given by the Delta's, a African American female sorority at the International House in Philadelphia. It was like history coming alive before my eyes, the lesson it taught on the value of education was unforgettable.
When the lights went up, we were engaged in a dialogue led by poet, Sonia Sanchez on the impact of what we viewed and how relevant it was to all educators and students today.
I could only keep asking how to purchase the video!! A few days later I visited my video rental store and their it was on the shelf...it was sold to me for $10!
I have since purchased over half a dozen [...] and given as gifts to lovers of American history. I also present workshops on slavery, Civil War and Literature in many schools, that connect to my storytelling work, featuring the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar. I often recommend this video to the teachers to show in the middle to university level before I come to the classroom or assembly.
It is realistically powerful! Excellent acting by all! Beautiful visuals and a great storyline from the cabin to the big house. I gave the last one away to a friend who is working on a Slavery Museum here in Philadelphia, so I keep ordering more!"
Why read and write?
silver queen | DE United States | 09/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I use the book with reluctant readers and writers (middle to high school)to get them to see that "universal, free, public education" was not always available to all and how valuable the abilities to read and write are. Then we watch the film which is an excellent adaptation of the book. Readers/viewers might also want to read Paulsen's sequel, Sarny. Both are interesting turns for Paulsen, best known for his coming of age/wilderness novels, especially Hatchet. Paulsen is one of the best contemporary writers of description...check out the opening page to his book, The Winter Room."
ABSOLUTE KEEPER! A MUST-SEE! 10 STARS!
Angela Hailey | Washington, DC | 05/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I stumbled across this movie plumbing Amazon as I do for AA movies. This movie will DEFINITELY be going onto my christmas list! I won't rehash the plot, but let me add a few things. This movie is full of layers that might go unnoticed, especially to younger audiences, but they are powerful nontheless. It is rare to see a movie about antebellum south that shows characters with so many dimensions. For instance:
1. It is rare to see a movie address the much earlier abolition of the slave trade in England. One of the Master's guests make a point of leaving the table, unwilling to participate in the fruits of slavery, presumably not feeling charitable to those uncivilized enough to do so.
2. As the plantation is on the brink of bankruptcy, we see the master is as odious to his own family as he is to his slaves. He demands that his son work alongside the slaves, and is later surprised when his oldest son essentially removes him from handling his own affairs, in much the dismissive way he has always treated his family.
3. The black slave driver is shown to be on the fringes of society, as an unwelcome interloper, never in, never out, and always able to lose that status at the drop of a dime.
4. The prevalence of guns, pointed by both white and black men at the slaves demonstrates more than anything else the fact that many southerners lived in fear of their slaves. Often, these movies show caricatures of the races, but this movie shows how ambivalent and precarious positions of power could be.
5. When he talks about his wife, John describes a woman who made a sacrifice of sale to protect her child. It is a little known fact that many men in the south found themselves on the receiving end of violence at the hands of women that they "owned". Since history is written by the victors, it is very rare to read about an all-powerful white male who got his behind kicked by a black woman with a shovel--but it happened--alot.
5. Although there is a definite 'feel-good' component to the movie, Sarny actually survives by her wits more than luck, and as we see her in the last scene, she is leaving determined to make her own luck.
As an African American woman, I found this movie incredibly deep and relevant. The final scene alone is worth the price of the movie. Finally, slaves are shown in their roundness, capable not only of just trickery and sabatoge, but cunning, patience, and vision. I cannot express the correctness of the pro-literacy message, one I spout on a daily basis. I will recommend this to everyone I see--everyone deserves to see it!