They’ve focused obsessively on the lurid and even saw some directors charged for murder – yet a new season of mondo movies argues for their artistic merit.
Today when even the most mainstream fare is routinely deconstructed for its perceived ideological shortcomings it’s bracing to watch something as fundamentally horrendous and complicated as Prosperi and Jacopetti’s mock-doc Farewell Uncle Tom (1972).
It is simultaneously the least palatable and most fascinating film in the Mondo Mondo program.
In it a pair of contemporary journalists travel through time to the antebellum south to report on slavery – beginning with the nuts and bolts of slave transportation itself.
The film was shot mostly in Haiti where Jacopetti and Prosperi were treated as honored guests of dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier who afforded them diplomatic cars – the right to film anywhere on the island – a nightly chow down at the palace and a limitless supply of extras –
– the often naked black bodies who pepper the film’s landscape with disturbing density.
The film’s torrent of simulated – though graphic – rape and abuse renders it incredibly difficult to watch and it appalled the late critic Roger Ebert, who wrote:
‘They have finally done it.
Made the most disgusting contemptuous insult to decency ever to masquerade as a documentary’.