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      Roots: The Gift

      1988 1 hr. 36 min. Holiday Drama List
      Reviews 78% 100+ Ratings Audience Score It is Christmas 1775 in the American South, and Cletus Moyer (Avery Brooks), a free black man, is helping slaves escape via an underground network. When he is captured, it puts the lives of many of those fleeing in danger. Moyer asks slaves Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) and the elderly Fiddler (Louis Gossett Jr.) to help, but they're reluctant because of the risks involved. After Moyer and two other men are hanged, Kinte and Fiddler must confront their consciences to do what they feel is right. Read More Read Less

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      Roots: The Gift

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      Audience Reviews

      View All (8) audience reviews
      Georgan G I had never seen this b4 at it was terrific. Very uplifting despite the sad theme of racial slavery. Even a bit better than the mini-series. Also, an inspiring Xmas movie. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 04/06/23 Full Review Audience Member The MOVIE OF MY LIFE. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member Great film for a TV film. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member "I'm dreaming of a black Christmas." (Sorry for that, by the ways) Yup, nothing says, "holiday cheer" quite like the enslavement and suffering of black people. Man, you know that holiday commercialism is getting carried away when a popular series that partially dealt with an enslaved person's refusal to be overruled by the religious views of the Christians who captured him gets its own Christmas special, but hey, this film isn't too overtly Christian, and besides, as liberal as ABC is getting nowadays, it's only a matter of time before we get a special for... whatever it is the African Muslims celebrate during December, the ultimate month for major religious festivities. Really, if no one else is, in a sense, enslaved when it comes to this series, it's LeVar Burton, because just when he thought he was clear from ABC, they pull him right back in from the warmth of CBS, which eventually got this film back. ABC took Burton out of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and NBC went on to lure this films' Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Tim Russ into the "Star Trek" TV series franchise, but then again, in all fairness, this film was just a one-off for ABC, so I don't think that they really care. Hey, at least CBS ended up having the last laugh, because between this film and the "Star Trek" series, Brooks, Mulgrew and Russ found relatively more success in the "Star Trek" shows, largely because people actually remember them, as opposed to this holiday opus. Eh, whatever, this film is still pretty decent, and yet, as entertaining as this delightful Christmas tale about racism and slavery is, it's not all that memorable for several reasons. As generally genuinely honest as "Roots" is in its portrayal of black slavery, it does boast the occasional lapse in subtlety, something that is, in this film, consistently faulty, for although this series isn't as cheesily over-the-top as it could have been, its portrayal of this series' sensitive subject matter has a tendency to get carried away, not to where realism is thrown way off, but decidedly to where you're likely to be thrown off. This film is hardly anything more than minimalist filler, so I'm not asking for all that much depth, but the final product's subtlety issues dilute the full impact of this subject matter's impact and engagement value, which takes further damage from issues in pacing. As overblown, repetitious and uneven as both "Roots" and "Roots: The Next Generation" are, they rarely played with the risk of slipping into all-out dullness, whereas this film, while reasonably entertaining, has its share of slow spells to break up relatively lively spells, thus creating a kind of pacing inconsistency that makes the bland spots - of which there are quite a few - and the more disconcerting. The relatively dull spots of this film aren't too considerable, but they are here, and that's more than you can say about the relatively dull spells in this film's predecessors, which were't too thrilling, but more consistent in their entertainment value than this film, which further pronounces blandness through a story structure that is somewhat aimless, repetitious and all around rather thin. This isn't exactly the most thin Christmas special out there, partially because, after a while, you forget about the Christmas aspects that accompany this meat subject matter, which still isn't as meaty as it probably could have been, because even though this film has its engaging moments, like I said, it's not too much more than mere filler, and that is its biggest issue. The final product feels rather, to be frank, needless, going haunted by plenty of natural shortcomings to go with unforunate consequential shortcomings, thus making for a film that is just limp enough to underwhelm, then subsequently begin its journey out of your mind as rather forgettable. Of course, as much as the film fails to fully sustain your attention, what you are likely to remember about the final product is likely to be enough to solidify the final product as, if nothing else, adequately entertaining, as well as reasonably well-produced. A near-epic-scale character study that spans over a century and costs $6.6 million, "Roots" isn't even all that upstanding with its production designs, so of course you shouldn't expect all that much fine production value out of this, but do expect this film to nevertheless deliver on designs that are lively and well-done enough to sell you on this environment adequately. They clearly didn't put too much money into this film, and even if they did, it would be something of a waste, as there really is only so much to this relatively tiny missing piece from an epic, but there is enough inspiration behind this series' production value to liven up substance that, while rich with shortcomings, is lively enough by its own right. Not even quite as long as some episodes of the two miniseries it succeeds, this film's story concept barely has all that much meat on it, being rather thin and aimless, though it's not like this lost chapter in the saga of Kunta Kinte is entirely juiceless, for although there is no denying that we're dealing with mere filler with this film, it is supplementary to the "Roots" mythology's depth, with a degree of dramatic weight, complimented by some enjoyable performances. There's not a whole lot for our performers to work with, yet there is still plenty of commendable acting, as well as certain show-stealers, such as the sympathetic Avery Brooks as a free black man who finds himself punished for offering other black men a chance for freedom, and the surprisingly effectively intimidating Kate Mulgrew as a mysterious bounty hunter. As for our leads, LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett Jr. reunite as well as you would hope they would, sharing sharp chemistry, bookended by engaging and distinct individual charismas that are occasionally broken up by a bit of layered depth that remind you of just how worthwhile the Kunta Kinte and Fiddler characters are. The onscreen talent does more to power this film than the offscreen talent, though that's not necessarily to say that the performance that helps in telling this story from behind the camera is too underwhelming, because even though director Kevin Hooks' storytelling is often more limp than I expected, there is still enough kick to it to provide a consistent degree of entertainment value, occasionally accompanied by genuine resonance. There's not enough of this resonance in this film, which doesn't even need all that much kick to begin with, but there is still enough juice to this project for it to do a decent job of fulfilling its purpose as an enjoyable, if a little too unnecessary additional drop to the "Roots" mythology. Overall, there are more subtlety issues to this "Roots" installment than usual, and they slow down momentum, though not as much as the unexpected slow spells in storytelling that call more to your attention limp plotting that is itself reflective of the film's being too thin and unnecessary to fully battle back underwhelmingness, whose grip is still not too tight around this effort, as there is enough convincingness to production designs and intrigue to story - augmented by good acting and generally enjoyable direction - to help in making "Roots: The Gift" a reasonably entertaining filler in the "Roots" saga that will serve as a likable time-killer, no matter how flawed it may be. 2.5/5 - Fair Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/23/23 Full Review Audience Member I watched this movie because I heard that it's hilarious to Star Trek fans, due to several leading actors from various Trek series appearing in the film (stars: Geordi La Forge (Kunte), Captain Janeway (bounty hunter), Lt. Commander Tuvok (bourgeois chief slave servant), Captain Sisko (resistance leader)). Captain Janeway enslaving Captain Sisko = much hilarity. Screw the Federation! Anyways, the film turned out to be much more than I expected, and was actually a quite touching look at slave life in the 1800's. I particularly enjoyed how the film explored the varying degrees of feelings the whites had towards the slaves, such as the mothers fondness for the slave woman she grew up with (though she still thinks of her as something less than human, something akin to a very intelligent chimp, one could say), or Hattie's (bounty hunter) feeling of indifference towards them. She doesn't despise them (as you can see in a very interesting conversation she has with her captured slave), yet she cares more about money and adventure than anything else. Then there's the "Fiddler"'s master, who although one of the more tolerant masters, often has moments of thoughtless cruelty (such as destroying the Fiddler's violin before his eyes because he thought it shabby. He wasn't intentionally being cruel, as he gave him a brand new one, yet he simply couldn't imaging a slave having sentimental feelings, just like everyone else). All in all, this film doesn't veer towards any stereotypes. Sure, we have the obligatory apologetic-white-man-hero that appears in all fictional films of slavery, but he's offset by the many much more "gray" characters. Just like reality, slave owners weren't necessarily all "evil" people, the white people of the time were raised with the prejudice that black people were inferior, and despite this, some were better than others. Not all slave owners beat and raped their slaves, but some did. Some were kind (relative to the standards of the time), some weren't. That's really what this film is about; a real look at the society of the time. The story is also touching, although a bit slow. The film is clumsily trying to illustrate the reality of slavery, to try and avoid veering towards any extreme stereotypes (all white people are evil). It illustrated the careless prejudice of the people of the time in much more original ways than just having tons of scenes depicting a white man beating a slave, such as the scene where slaves are made to act as mules for the white children's Christmas pageant. The film eventually came together with a touching ending of hope, using the slightly cliched but well suited "Star of Bethlehem" metaphor. In short, this would be a great film to watch on Christmas Eve (the majority of the film is set in the days leading up to Christmas) for a nice break from the traditional films. The acting is wonderful, the story a good tear jerker, and the Christmas metaphors well implemented. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/23/23 Full Review Audience Member This is Not the entirety of the Missing "Roots" by Alex Haley from the Mini-Series of 1977, but more in addition to it.Also excellent & Life Altering.Thank You Alex Haley for sharing your Families Story, You made a Difference in the World, you made a Difference in how People View Other People. They may have remade you in 2016, but this original version is still the best Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

      Movie Info

      Synopsis It is Christmas 1775 in the American South, and Cletus Moyer (Avery Brooks), a free black man, is helping slaves escape via an underground network. When he is captured, it puts the lives of many of those fleeing in danger. Moyer asks slaves Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton) and the elderly Fiddler (Louis Gossett Jr.) to help, but they're reluctant because of the risks involved. After Moyer and two other men are hanged, Kinte and Fiddler must confront their consciences to do what they feel is right.
      Kevin Hooks
      Production Co
      David L. Wolper Productions, Warner Bros. Television
      Holiday, Drama
      Original Language
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Feb 5, 2016
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