Though it feels like a lifetime, it’s hard to believe it was only about six months ago that Quentin Tarantino‘s snarling slavery spaghetti western epic “Django Unchained” was riding high in theaters, and causing no small amount of chatter. While the movie earned praise from critics, and box office approval from audiences who made it the director’s most successful movie to date, there were noted dissenters including Spike Lee who refused to see it and Katt Williams who threatened to punch Tarantino over the frequent use of the n-word in the movie. Those are probably two of the more extreme examples, but in general — and as underscored by our three different reviews — there were those who concerns were a bit more measured, and it turns out “Sin Nombre” and “Jane Eyre” director Cary Fukunaga is one of them.
Our own Jessica Kiang had a chance to chat with the filmmaker last week at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and the conversation turned to “Django Unchained” after she first asked about whether Fukunaga was still working on the Civil War film, “No Blood No Guts No Glory.”
“I took myself off that project, in the fall of 2011. It’s funny because the project is still out there, I love the story, because I’m really obsessed with the American Civil War. I’ve studied it for many years and I’ve always wanted to do an American Civil War story,” he explained. “I saw an opportunity there to tell an amazing story of The Andrews Raid and the Confederacy, but I think the producer wanted to tell a much more ‘Inglourious Basterds‘ complete reinterpretation of history which I didn’t feel comfortable with. I think the history alone was captivating, we didn’t need to invent action scenes.”
Naturally, Kiang had to ask what he thought of the Tarantino school of using history as a backdrop to tell elevated genre stories, and Fukunaga isn’t quite sure the approach works. “I really like Quentin Tarantino, but I couldn’t figure out what he’s doing. I couldn’t figure out if the irreverence for history, was it to be controversial and because he wants to have fun or is it just really poor research? Even from the very first title [in ‘Django Unchained’] the title card says ‘1859, 3 years before the Civil War.’ He even gets that wrong…,” Fukunaga said. “[The danger is] there’s a lot of people out there who don’t bother to learn history, and will believe [this stuff] no matter how ridiculous it is.”
“I hope that [‘Django’] doesn’t become ‘the Civil War movie.’ It’s the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in America, [July 4th] was the 150th anniversary of Vicksburg which was the battle that really won the war, not Gettysburg, and no one’s doing anything [movie-wise]. Maybe it’s too expensive… studios won’t pay for that stuff anymore. Not enough robots blowing shit up,” Fukunaga lamented.
It’s another intriguing viewpoint on Tarantino’s film that’s clearly still giving folks a lot to think about. What do you think? Does Tarantino need to stick a little closer to historical fact if he’s going to play in those waters, or does he have license to bend where he needs to? Tell us below. We’ll have more from our conversation with Fukunaga later this week.