In the 1960s and 1970s, there were a series of movies known as the “Mondo” films. They were named after the original Italian “travelogue” that inspired the genre: “Mondo Cane,” a supposed documentary that shocked viewers by depicting barbaric or titillating cultural practices throughout the world, most of which were almost certainly staged.
There were hallmarks to these films — especially to those directed by Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopetti, the two most famous auteurs of the genre and the directors of “Mondo Cane.”
The movies weren’t any good, at least in a technical sense. They existed for no other reason than to shock, which is to say they existed to make money for hack directors who’d abdicated all artistic responsibility. They were usually unabashedly bigoted when they dealt with race or religion. They were needlessly, meretriciously gory. They were meant to stoke the most base emotions among the dregs of the filmgoing public.
Here’s Roger Ebert reviewing one of the most notorious films of the genre: “Africa Addio,” a wildly racist 1967 “documentary” from Prosperi and Jacopetti about the end of colonial rule in Africa.
“The film begins with a scene familiar from a dozen newsreels: A British colonial governor boards a launch and is taken to an offshore ship. The Union Jack comes down, and a new flag is flown. Another colony is independent,” Ebert wrote.
“But independence has come too soon, the narrator tells us. Africans are not ready for self-government. ‘Europe has abandoned her baby,’ the narrator mourns, ‘just when it needs her the most.’ Who has taken over, now that the colonialists have left? The advertising spells it out for us: ‘Raw, wild, brutal, modern-day savages!'”
Lovely. You couldn’t make “Africa Addio” in 2020. (You arguably shouldn’t have been able to make it in 1967, but that’s another story.) Human nature being what it is, however, racially tinged exploitation like the “Mondo” films will never die. In that vein, I give you “Cracka,” a very 2020 answer to “Addio Africa.”
“Cracka” doesn’t pretend to be a documentary, but it checks off every other one of the “Mondo” boxes. The trailer for the film has gone viral, if just because it’s 90 seconds of some of the most vile race-baiting imaginable. It’s surprising it’s still on YouTube, inasmuch as it contains a scene obviously meant to imply simulated rape that has to violate some term of service. It is, to be blunt, evil — and an evil very much of this particular time and place in history.
The plot of “Cracka,” nearest I can tell, is this: A violent, sociopathic neo-Nazi is transported to an alternate universe, where black slaveowners hunt down, lynch, beat, rape and otherwise debase their white human property.
The production values are low at best and, were it not for the incendiary material, I’d be looking for the silhouettes of the guy and the two robot puppets making fun of it in the bottom right corner of the screen. Instead, consider the fact that the trailer already has more than 800,000 views since it was uploaded on June 18. As of Wednesday afternoon, 20,000 users had “liked” it while 29,000 have “disliked” it.
This isn’t a big-budget film. The neo-Nazi lead is played by Lorenzo Antonucci. According to the U.K. Daily Mail, he “previously depicted an unnamed henchman in ‘Days Of Our Lives’ and was an uncredited extra in ‘Game of Thrones.'”
“Other cast members include Hakeen Kae-Kazim (Hotel Rwanda), rapper Saigon, Kathryn Kates and James Darnell,” the Daily Mail reported.
The beginning of the trailer depicts a brutal racist assault in which a gang of white supremacists shout epithets as they brutalize a black motorist they’ve pulled out of his car. It’s reminiscent of the opening scene to “Mississippi Burning,” provided that film was directed by an unalloyed sadist.
The title cards spell out just what this is going to be:
“You took our breath away, what if we took yours?”
“You raped our daughters, what if we raped yours?”
“You stole our freedom, now we steal yours.”
“Cracka,” just for the record, is written and directed by Dale Resteghini, a music video specialist who’s also directed a few low-budget feature films that can probably only be found in the dollar DVD bin at truck stops. He also appears to be very white. In other words, this talk about “our breath,” “our daughters” and “our freedom” certainly has some positionality issues, even if this is just a guy trying to make a quick buck off of some shock.
The neo-Nazi protagonist is transported back in time via some unknown force of energy, which is represented by some special effects that would induce laughter in viewers, had they not just witnessed a stomach-churning assault on a black man by white supremacists.
Transported back in time, the neo-Nazi finds a rifle pointed at him by a black man. “What’chu looking at, cracka?” the black man says. I guess if you’re going to go racist, go all the way and get every race while you’re at it.
We then see the dangling feet of a lynched white man, a scene in which the neo-Nazi is sold on the auction block, and a shot of him with a noose around his neck.
Then we get to the part that has to violate some term of service: A scene that clearly intimates a white woman is being raped that depicts far more of the act than one is prepared for. There’s no nakedness, but — as you can see in the video — it’s obvious what’s happening and it’s obvious this isn’t what you normally would watch on a video-sharing service.
Toward the end of the trailer, just so you really get the point, there’s a shot of a “Trump 2020” sticker on a car right after you see a white man giving the finger. Also, while you get plenty of the titular white racial slur in the video, there’s also tons of black racial slurs, particularly in the hip-hop track that backs the trailer.
WARNING: The following video and descriptions of it contains graphic language, images and themes that some viewers will find offensive.
Hollywood has treated people of color poorly on celluloid. This is especially true of exploitation films. For some, the answer isn’t to stop the cycle. Instead, it’s reciprocity. It’s making a film that shows white people as slaves, that shows white people being raped by black slaveowners and with nooses around their necks. It’s time for some turnabout. Let’s glorify slavery a little bit.
The only problem this movie is even going to attempt to solve, one imagines, is letting Dale Resteghini to upgrade to a higher trim level on that Volvo XC60 he’s been looking at. I haven’t seen much of this, but I can almost assure you of this much: As a cynical exercise in race-bait grifting, it looks tough to beat.
Say what you will about the politics of Spike Lee — and I’ll say plenty — you come away from “Do the Right Thing” or “BlacKKKlansman” with a definitive message about the world. I can’t imagine, from the 90 seconds I’ve seen of “Cracka,” that I’d come away with anything but nausea when it’s released on Amazon Prime, Google Play and iTunes later this year.
The Daily Mail notes it’s unclear who financed “Cracka.” I’d make a joke about it being Resteghini’s worst enemy, but that’s the thing — this’ll likely be the most successful film of his career. This isn’t saying much when you consider this is the man behind “Da Hip Hop Witch,” but it still says something.
The people behind this film may not understand filmmaking or taste, but they understand where we are in 2020 all too well. There’s no other way to explain why this trailer is well on its way to over a million views. I feel a bit guilty even writing about “Cracka,” as if I’m perpetuating the viral moment this odious production is enjoying. However, it’s important to understand how deep our sickness goes.
For those of you waiting for the 2020 version of “Africa Addio,” just with different prejudices, I don’t think you’ll have to wait long. For the rest of us, we can simply be left agog that someone can be so sick or so cynical.
Prosperi and Jacopetti may be long gone, but their influence lives deeply in Dale Resteghini.
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