Earlier this week, Disney held their annual shareholders meeting. In what seems to have become a tradition at these events, someone posed the question to CEO Bob Iger as to whether the company was looking at releasing the much-maligned Song Of The South on DVD or blu-ray disc.
Iger once again indicated that the studio wouldn’t be entertaining the idea of releasing the film any time soon, stating that it would not be “right” to devote “studio resources” to such a project.
Iger’s response seems to indicate that he perhaps falls into the camp that believe the film is a racist depiction of slavery and should be hidden away from view for all time. It strikes me as a shame that it appears that Iger has fallen for the misinformation that continues to surround Song Of The South.
One of the chief criticisms of Song Of The South was that it showed slaves as being happy to work their lives away on southern plantations. (A depiction that hasn’t kept Gone With The Wind from being seen by the public.) Of course, anyone who has actually seen the film and paid attention to it can tell you that Song Of The South is actually set in the post-Civil War, Reconstruction-era south. The plantation workers shown are actually sharecroppers and paid field hands. Besides, if Uncle Remus was a slave, do you think he would be allowed to just head off down the road at the end of the film?
My question to Bob Iger would be – Have you actually ever seen the film?
I mean, it is not like you don’t have the opportunity to view the film right there at your fingertips. You are the CEO of Disney for crying out loud! One call is all you need to make to have a print pulled from storage and a screening on the lot set up to happen at your convenience.
Better yet, hold the screening with a couple of film and Civil War historians. Talk about the film and its historical context afterwards and use that discussion as the basis for creating a home video release that can be a way to educate people about that time in American history. Design a video release with extra features that provide the historical context not just for the setting of the film but for the times when the film was made. There are some many cool possibilities with the blu-ray format available. For example, you could have little pop-up captions with relevant facts pop up during the film.
But if you don’t want to actually do that sort of work, license the film out to someone who would. Criterion has been doing this kind of work for decades now and has the cache to be able to present a film like Song Of The South in a way that would probably undercut much of the film’s wrongly placed criticism. It’s not like Disney hasn’t licensed out a film to Criterion before. Their release of the The Rock was licensed from Disney subsidiary Hollywood Pictures.
Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew, was a strong advocate for Song Of The South. When I saw him speak in Philadelphia in 2007, he stated, “[Song Of The South] is a wonderful film that deserves to be back out in the public. All it needs is context.”
Sadly, with his passing last year it seems as if there will be no way that the film would even come under consideration for a release until a more forward thinker replaces Iger as CEO. Hopefully that will be soon.
Via Bleeding Cool.