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  • In reading through these comments, I've seen tons of people complain about how this movie is thoughtless, the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, blah blah blah. People, that was exactly the point...to challenge White and Black Americans' perspectives on those very stereotypes! Before you pick a film apart, you have to ask yourself what audience it was directed at. Would you criticize a Disney film for being too childish if it was supposed to be directed at children? Of course not. Therefore, ask yourself what audience White Man's Burden was targeted at. Because of where I grew up, that answer was obvious to me before I even saw the movie.

    I'm a White man who grew up in Monterey, California. Central Monterey is middle-to-upper class and is dominantly White and Asian. The southside communities of Pacific Grove, Carmel, and Pebble Beach are very upper class and dominantly White. In the north we have Seaside, which is the lower-income, high-crime area and is dominantly Black and Hispanic. This seems to be pretty typical of the race/class division that plagues America. Note that Monterey is not exactly a major metropolitan area where these neighborhoods are far away from each other. The entire area has a population of maybe 120,000 and stretches only about 12 miles (19 km) from north to south.

    By growing up between the downtown area and Seaside, it's been easy for me to see the racial problems in this country from many angles. I can tell you from experience that the most hot-headed, controversial, and hateful examples of racial bigotry and stereotyping in the USA are in the way so many Whites and Blacks view each other.

    I have met countless Blacks who think that being born White automatically makes you greedy, naturally oppressive of the poor, and have a genetically-inbred desire to dump on every other race in the world. These Blacks typically think that everyone with white skin owes them something because of the crimes of our ancestors (slavery, lynching, etc.), whether it be walking around giving an apology to every Black we see, expecting a free ride from the government just because they're born with black skin, or just having us generally take whatever they want to dish out and accepting that we "deserve it" because we were born into an "evil race".

    On the other side of this coin are the Whites who think that being born Black makes you stupid, lazy, and a natural-born criminal. These Whites can cite the fact that there is a high amount of violent crime committed by Blacks despite making up only 12% of the US population (not thinking about the fact that this is a result of poverty, not skin color), or the high amount of hard drug use in Black society (again, depression due to poverty, not skin color).

    White Man's Burden was very obviously aimed at these two particular groups of people. What they both have in common is the belief that certain behavior is naturally part of being born with a particular skin color. By depicting an alternate history with the roles of Blacks and Whites reversed in America, the film shows that lack of knowledge and a tendency towards crime is inspired by growing up in poverty, not by being born with black skin. It also portrayed selfishness, greed, and elitism to be qualities of those who grew up in luxury and wealth rather than being tied to white skin. The point of the film was not to go into painstaking detail about how the roles came to be reversed, where the other races are, or to explore the alternate-reality society on every single level, which would require a mini-series rather than a 90-minute film. The point was to shake up the narrow-minded perspectives of two particularly bigoted groups of Americans, to kick them in the butt and make them consider that skin color isn't a factor in who you are. Whatever else you want to say about the movie's performances or characterizations, it did its' job perfectly.
  • I think the ending was sad. I felt sorry for Travolta, even his son. But I disagree with the comment about "whats the point" because it shows what I go through weekly. I mean, some of it is extreme, but true. And when Belafonte remarked, "well, most of them don't have father's" in response to his wife's comment about the white kids discipline, it was... I'm at a lost for words. I'm watching it again tonight, and I think every white man needs to see the movie, and every black man. It was a trip seeing the roles flipped. But the movie is truly, "a trip". I mean, when Belafonte talks about the "socially crippled, genetically inferior" whites, its a trip, just hearing that. I study psychology, and all these theories are pervasive, and they relate to science by the genetic concepts of the 20th century, i mean, eugenics and it is really wild. Anyway, this is a must see movie. You must see it. I'm mad I didn't know it existed for the last ten years.
  • This film is set in a rare alternative world where the African-Americans have all the power and health. The priors live into luxurious residences and white men live in slums, inner city ghettos and with high poverty-level. A Caucasian blue-collar named Louis Pinnock(John Travolta)working in a chocolate factory is fired by his boss(Tom Wright) due to a misunderstanding.While he was delivering a package for Thaddeus Thomas(Harry Belafonte), he's mistaken accused as voyeur his wife(Margaret Avery). Meanwhile, he's beaten by policeman(Michael Beach) and skinheads, furthermore, his family, wife(Kelly Lynch) and sons are evicted from their house. Driven by desperation, Pinnock takes a gun and kidnaps wealthy Thaddeus, asking justice . Louis is justly helped by an old vagabond(Tom Bower).

    The movie gets a politics critical about reversed stereotypes with anti-racism parable. Gimmicky plot is proceeded with slickness and intelligence. The original premise makes a real impact, adding the excellent acting by two main actors and magnificent secondary cast. John Travolta is top-notch as desperate worker driven by anger,demanding justice and extraordinary Harry Belafonte as cocky member of social elite. Supporting cast is frankly awesome, Kelly Lynch as affectionate wife, Tom Wright as bigoted chief, besides, Margaret Avery, Tom Bower, Carrie Snodgress,Sheryl Lee Ralph, among others. The picture displays atmospheric cinematography by Kurant and appropriate soundtrack by Howard Shore(Lord of Rings,The aviator),usual David Cronemberg's musician. The flick is well produced by Laurence Bender(Reservoir dogs,Pulp fiction). The motion picture is professionally directed by Desmond Nakano, a prestigious screenwriter. However failed in the Box-office and Nakano only directed another picture titled American pastime and again with no success.
  • Although on the surface a stupid, simplistic and "unrealistic" film, there is much more to the film. If the roles were reversed and every black character was played by a white and every white by a black I would be bored to tears, the film would never have made a dime, and we'd all hate it with justification. However, it was this very realization, during the film, which made me respect its message. Because the roles are completely and totally reversed, swapping black and white character for character, the film is disturbing. It's almost painful to watch. Ask yourself while you're watching how you're reacting and how the reaction would be different if there were no race reversals. Maybe that's because of the stereotypes we have in place and the roles we do play in the world - if it were just another story about a black man down on his luck we'd all yawn but because it's a white man and all of society is reversed, we watch, we wonder how it will play out, and we're bothered by it. I analogize the film to Planet of the Apes in some ways because of its ability to make us step back and take a look at society in a different way entirely. It is not as well done as Planet of the Apes but is worthwhile.
  • clinickay5 March 2006
    What I really found impressive in this film is the way it just falls into the turnaround of stereotypes. I was zapping one night and came across it and I was totally engrossed within the first few minutes. I don't come from or live in the USA but I can't help wondering what the people there thought about this film. It seemed to very subtly explain what I have always believed, racism has nothing to do with colour it has to do with wealth. I never realized that John Travolta was such a superb actor until I watched this film. I saw it about 7 years ago and I tell everyone about it when talking about cinema. What surprises me is that relatively few people have seen it or even heard of it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    just because the movie reversed the roles that blacks and whites play in society did not make the movie any less clichéd. it was the same tired story of a poor man trying to overcome all of the obstacles that life lays in front of him. if his "normal life" weren't hard enough something happens to make him even more desperate. just when he sees fit to do the right thing... i thought that John Q was a much better version of this theme. additionally why did john travolta have to speak in some sort of Ebonics? is it because people are poor and oppressed that they speak that way? there were so many things that did not make sense about the movie. i understand that the writer was trying to make a point of showing how it is for blacks in a white society. most dolls and action figures in U.S. society are white making it difficult for African_Americans to find roles models for their children. so in the movie they were black instead of white. but why was every single policeman black instead of white except for one white female cop at the very end? why was every single personality on the TV shows black? pardon the pun but it was so black and white that it offended my intelligence. i could have figured out the point had it been done in more "realistic" terms.
  • It is JUST a movie!!! geez... you all are giving this movie too much power. It is meant to ENTERTAIN. The movie's soul purpose was to illustrate many popular stereotypes. Any mature audience would recognize that it was only meant to do this and NOT to properly represent either role for the sake of being politically correct. However, it is apparent that many of you find it offensive or brutal because you feel that "your race" was being misrepresented. Speaking as an African American female, I understood that this movie was ONLY meant to open my eyes to society's view of race roles of blacks and whites in America. Sure black people dont walk around with duck-tape on their jackets (as in the scene with the thugs at the restaurant) and little black girls do not have easy access to a revolver that they are permitted to use in the case of an emergency (as in the scene where Belafonte's character hid in a white person's home for safety) and LORD KNOWS a white man will NEVER bring a black girl home to meet his family. *haha* --kiddin'. ("disturbing" comment, huh?)

    Well anyways, I think the movie was good for rousing up these feelings of disturbance, however it lost me when the whole kidnapping took place. It became the focal point of the movie and confused many of its viewers. Other than that, the movie was ok. I give it a 8 on a scale from 1 to 10, only because I have never seen such a bold attempt to deal with race roles as this one. Therefore, I enjoyed the movie.
  • noress23 January 2002
    I didnt know anything about the movie when it was sent on Danish television, and to begin with I found it quite surprising; it made me think a lot. -A great way of describing the social problems in the USA. The only problem with the movie was that it lasted for more than half an hour; after that it was just a cliche of a movie..very predictable. Its obvious that the movie was produced basically because of the good concept. Then suddenly they had to write a script too, and they simply forgot to be original, resulting in a story which is lousy even compared to television.
  • As some others have mentioned, it's shocking how few people have heard of, let alone seen, this film. I will admit that its social relevance would have likely had greater impact had it been made at least two decades earlier, but the discussion surrounding the more implicit racial tensions that exist in our supposedly politically correct modern society rather than the explicit ones that we are intended to believe are now solely a part of our sordid past may hold even more importance to some viewers.

    Indeed, it is probable that many find the reversal of events depicted herein to be the result of overactive imaginations, delusions found only in cinematic representations of cross-racial interactions. However, having witnessed similar circumstances and having known a considerable number of people whose accounts are fascinatingly similar to the tendencies portrayed, I found it to be a very accurate study of our human need to find fault with another for whatever reason is most readily available to us.

    The role reversal played out far better than in any movie that comes to mind as of this writing, and the acting and overall experience served to support the writer/director's vision perfectly.

    I obviously gave this film ten stars, and would (and always do) recommend it to someone willing to have an open mind who chooses to further their understanding of underlying social structures in a more visceral sense.
  • aschachte25 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    Minor Spoilers On the plus side, it was believable. It had good acting. I especially liked Harry Belafonte getting irate at the inept white cashier for not helping him get robbed by John Travolta. That was a nice touch to add some twisted realism to the movie. I laughed at that one part. But the rest was just so depressing, and that story line (apart from the racial switch) has been done to death. Take Boys in the Hood and switch the white and black people around. There was no real point other than the fact that racism exists in our world and that it's a darned shame people get discriminated against. Really? Wow! Who knew? So if you want to be miserable and your favorite Blues radio station has been taken over by the Dance Mix Syndicate, go rent White Man's Burden. Otherwise, don't.
  • Alternative history is certainly one of the more compelling aspects of speculative fiction . Anyone who has seen the DOCTOR WHO story Inferno would be hard pressed to forget it , Robert Harris's Fatherland is a unforgettable novel and whilst I have no wish to read any of his books Harry Turtledove is a very popular author . In short premises featuring alternative planet Earths' and their different histories are thought provoking to say the least and when it was announced that John Travolta ( Let's not forget how massive a star he was then after PULP FICTION ) was going to be starring in an alternative future film where the roles of black and white are reversed the studio execs would have quite rightly tapped themselves on their shoulders knowing they were making a massive hit

    Strangely I'd forgotten all about this movie until it was broadcast on BBC1 a couple of nights ago and it's not difficult to understand why it's an obscure flop . The film starts with a black family gathered at the dinner table where patriarch and businessman Thaddues Thomas states his dislike for white people and their problems . Cut to Louis Pinnock who who works for Thomas company and lives in a rough area where his neighbours all seem to be pecker woods . Later due to a series of contrived , not very well written circumstances Pinnock loses his job with the company and decides to kidnap Thomas

    The problem with WHITE MANS BURDEN is that this is an alternative world where Black Americans are at the apex of social hierarchy while whites are at the bottom bu this scenario is never ever explored . In fact the only things were shown that things are so mightily different is when someone is flipping the TV channel that show amongst other things a western where all the calvarymen are black . I know this was made in 1995 but is director Desmond Nakano saying there's no white equivalent of Morgan Freeman , Condaleeza Rice or Colin Powell ? For goodness sake we're even shown a black golfer on TV . Is this version of America without a white golfing prodigy called Alpine Woods ?

    So that's the main problem and an unforgivable one where we're told that everything is different but as the plot rolls along we find ourselves asking what is actually different ? The audience are shown a couple of black cops being confronted by an angry white mob ( This doesn't happen in " our " America ? ) , a white man with a black companion are threatened by pecker woods ( This doesn't happen in " our " America ? ) etc , etc . At no point is the premise used to explore how anything would be different in " our " America . If you made a film set in " our " America where a disgruntled white employee kidnaps his racist black boss then you would not have to alter one single word never a single scene from this screenplay . And disgruntled employees kidnapping nasty employer type redemption plots we never all that compelling in the first place
  • Malcs22 March 2000
    This could be the film that is needed to refer to right now as whites and blacks in this culture finally begin to circle each other, trying to decide how best to get down and dirty with that damn bugaboo of race and it's shadow players of class, justice and power.

    John Travolta plays Louis Pinnock, a factory worker for See's Candies with a history of exemplary company loyalty working his way towards a promotion. He's been with the company many years, dutifully doing his job, looking forward to the day, any day now, that he'll finally get his much-deserved promotion to foreman. He has a wife, a little boy, a small house in the part of the city that doesn't have any sidewalks, and some sort of problem with pride because his wife (Kelly Lynch) wants to work, but Louis gives her the evil eye every time she brings it up. One day after work, just at quitting time, Louis's boss asks Louis and his coworker if one of them could take a small package across town to drop off to Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte) the owner of the company who has an estate. Louis steps forward and grabs the package immediately, even though he'll be delivering it on his own time and happily takes his beat-up old white truck across town to deliver the package. When he gets to the estate of Mr. Thomas he ends up approaching it from the back way without realizing it, walks up to the house, looks up and inadvertently sees Mr. Thomas's wife nude through an upstairs window. Mr. Thomas, who is watching him through the window as he stands right next to his unclothed wife, says to Louis' boss on the phone "Send another delivery boy next time. Not another peeping tom." These few words set off a chain reaction that ricochets for the rest of the movie, serpentining it's way through the issue of color by presenting a mirror image for society to see: Louis and his family (in fact ALL whites in this picture) live in a black world. When Louis's little boy flips the channels on the remote control, EVERY television station has nothing but black faces. Black game shows. Black soap operas. Black news broadcasts with violators referred to as "Caucasian". Black commercials. The family of Mr. Thomas all sit around, fat and happy, at their gigantic dinner table talking about how inferior the white race is. Scary? Wait until you see the look of incredulous horror of Thaddeus' face when he sees one white man gun down another.

    What screenwriter and first time director Desmond Nakano (Last Exit To Brooklyn, American Me) has created is a horror movie for white folk, and this SHOULD scare the white folk who have never thought twice about their hegemony in society, and the responsibility it brings. Since he has directly inverted the equation, the question of skin color is shown to be completely moot as the real underlying issues of class and power are revealed to be the causes they really are, not the effects. This is a film about a situation that gets out of hand due to a simple misunderstanding that is dealt with so offhandedly that the ensuing consequences were never even contemplated by the perpetrator and they come back not only to haunt him, but to place him on the threshold of death's door. I don't want to reveal any more of the plot for a reason: The script is so good that when law-abiding Louis finds himself in the worst of all desperate situations, scene follows scene so haphazardly as a reflection of his thought processes because he has completely freaked out. He has no idea what he is going to do next, and the tension of the film is wound so tightly because the film is through Louis's eyes, and there is nothing more dangerous than a criminal who has not thought out his own motivation. John Travolta's performance is exceptional because he doesn't have any of his standard suave moves or cool facade to lean back on, ala Pulp Fiction or Get Shorty. He's a blue-collar worker who has become accustomed to his lower rung in society, yet has accepted his responsibilities with pride and diligence. He has been a considerate, patient, law-abiding citizen his whole life and has worked hard for his position and his family, no matter how slightly above the poverty line he may be swimming, and when he realizes that all he's worked so hard for means nothing to the heartless authority figures that begin to circle around him like vultures who insist on remaining oblivious to his circumstance he begins to behave like a cornered rat.

    When the film is over and the cards have fallen where they have, what is left is a tragedy that, like all tragedies, could have been so easily avoided if only two minutes of someone's time could have been negotiated. Take someone you know to this film. Take that person who you know as an acquaintance whom you've never wanted to have as a friend just because they don't understand it's not about the color of someone's skin, it's about character. Talk to them extensively about the issues in this film on your way home. Make sure they get it.
  • "White Man's Burden" has a (reasonably) neat premise: society is reversed so the black man is in the white man's current place. The idea is this allows us to tackle our prejudices and preconceived notions about society. Does it work? No, it's too busy being laughable or boring.

    From the opening I felt chills. Was this chocolate factory scene, brown being poured on top of white, some horribly clumsy use of imagery? I feared so. The film looked set to be heavy-handed, and it was. The movie's flaw is that it over-does it's premise - nearly all the white people are poor and rundown, while all the black people come across as elitist snobs. The underlying message of course being that in "our reality" the situation is reversed and this gives a horribly, simplistic, and downright irritating attitude towards race. It's completely simplistic and infuriating - not because you're angered that it's right but because it's done so poorly and with a preachiness that grates.

    It might all be OK if there was a story to support it. There isn't. Reeking of TV movie-of-the-week, John Travolta is playing a desperate factory-worker who kidnaps his ex-boss in a bid to get the money he lost from being fired unfairly. *Yawn*. There's no suspense and no tension in their scenes. There's the boring, trite situation where the boss, played by Harry Belafonte, starts to understand Travolta's cause. Far too obvious in coming. There's even the hilariously poor moment when Belafonte's son takes home a white girl to a look of distaste from his mother - bang that message-hammer on our heads Mr Nakano (the script writer). I'm reminded of a moment from "Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood" when the character is similarly preachy and the postman turns to the screen and says "Message!" pointing out how morale messages are weakly delivered. In fact the only decent bit is about two minutes from the end, and even that's ruined by the (incredibly) obvious follow-up final minute. *Yawn*.

    Travolta does nothing for this picture. This film was released after his sudden re-emerge in "Pulp Fiction", but I imagine he made it while still wandering around the Turkey Farm. His performance is as forgettable, as is usual with him and Belafonte is just OK.

    Nothing can make me recommend this piece. If you want a movie about race issues why not watch the infinitely superior "American History X". This movie has a dreadful plot, weak acting, and destroys a promising premise by being both heavy-handed and insultingly simplistic. Avoid. 2/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an exceptional and courageous movie which risks offending the majority of the potential audience. The premise is completely straightforward: black people's lives are played by whites, white people's lives are played by blacks. It is otherwise an entirely ordinary kind of drama: A hard working honest blue collar family man, John Travolta, is struggling to support his wife and two children. He happens to inadvertently offend a very wealthy man (Harry Belafonte) with the power to have him instantly dismissed. What follows is a believable catastrophe that might befall a black family. The whites played by blacks) talk as whites tend to do. The blacks (played by whites) behave and are treated as blacks tend to be.

    What makes the movie stand out is that a white audience could easily watch - not callously but simply as a believable example of the way a black family might get treated. However the fact that the family is played by whites gives the white viewer the instinctive sense that they are being exceptionally roughly treated - that there is something not at all nice going on.

    If, as surely is the case a white audience feels instinctive revulsion at the harsh treatment of the white family then only one thing follows. That is the uncomfortable realisation that there are dual standards when it comes to race. "White guilt" does not come into it.

    It is a very rare movie indeed which puts an audience in that very uncomfortable position. Each (white) audience member is thus forced to come to terms with their feeling of discomfort either by acceptance - or some kind of more or less elaborate strategy of denial.

    It is on the surface a completely uncomplicated and even obvious film (as is its message). Yet the strange misunderstandings seen in the reviews attest to the unpalatability of its message. Even the UK's leading liberal newspaper review gave it the following oddly flat and neutral review which makes no mention of the movie's entire reason for being:

    "Drama set in an alternative America where black people are members of an elite society and their white counterparts inhabit inner-city ghettos. John Travolta stars as a lowly factory worker who is mistaken for a peeping Tom and beaten by cops, leading him to kidnap a prominent black businessman and demand justice."

    It does not make saints of an entire race - indeed Travolta's struggle to bring up his family is made more difficult by the drug-dealing (whites playing blacks) low-lifes who are his neighbours. Just that the central character is a good man who only comes to public attention when for the first time in his blameless life he is driven off the rails.

    Although set in the USA it could have been set in the UK but with a less extreme storyline. The British newspaper review hints that it would also produce discomfort - and denial - there also.
  • mattymatt4ever15 September 2002
    "White Man's Burden" is a compelling, low-key film that probably won't be remembered because of its lack of melodrama. It's a brutally realistic look at a world, where the roles are reversed: the whites are working-class people living in rough neighborhoods and the blacks are upper-class people living in mansions. There's a lot of movies that deal with racism, but this movie deals with reverse racism. Believe it or not, there is a good deal of whites who are on welfare and work in factories and have other manual jobs. And believe it or not, there is a good deal of blacks who are very wealthy and work in big business. This movie plays against all the stereotypes. And that's what I found fascinating. None of that cheesy, exploitative "White people bad/Black people good" crap. Though Harry Belafonte's character is a close-minded racist in the beginning, he develops a healthy friendship with John Travolta as the film goes on and eventually he changes his views. Just like some white people should realize that not all black people are low-class idiots, some blacks should realize that not all whites are high-class snobs. There is no such thing as a "superior race."

    Travolta and Belanfonte give splendid performances. This is a fine example of Travolta's versatility as an actor. He doesn't just play the smooth-talking, chain-smoking villain. This is obviously a low-budget film, so I imagine Travolta didn't get paid much to do this movie. Kelly Lynch is compelling as his wife, and there's a very disturbing scene in which she's forced by two cops to change clothes in front of one of them.

    "WMB" has a good message, but doesn't deliver it in a melodramatic, in-your-face fashion. It's a brutal, realistic, touching character study that I think most people should check out. It's one of those overlooked films that really deserved more attention.

    My score: 7 (out of 10)
  • I expected good things from this film as I tend to admire directors and screenwriters who take a visually arresting premise and manipulate it in order to prompt self reflection in the audience (The Elephant Man for example). In addition, I am a big fan of Travolta and the role seemed an artistically sound one for him to undertake. Initially, the widespread symbolism is interesting and inventive, yet becomes overbearing relatively quickly, and to me it seemed that the director underestimated his audience's perception and continually rammed home his point with the subtlety of Dolph Lundgren.

    The film ultimately left me frustrated because I thought the idea was a good one but the story simply wasn't multi-faceted enough to be engaging. Aside from the characters played by Travolta and Belafonte, most of the supporting cast was very underwritten, particularly the families of both men. However, the performances were very good, and I thought Belafonte conveyed the defeatism and inherent arrogance of his role particularly well.

    Overall though, I thought this was pseudo-art: it masqueraded as a deep and meaningful examination of the social relevance of race, but ended up as a very simplistic story disguised by delusions of self worth.

    5/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    European imperialists absolutely hate looking at themselves in the mirror. This movie forces them to do so in a unique way, which causes all the meta-analytical comments herein and all the vituperative reviews. Granted Martin Luther King Jr.'s methods were not what my family and I prefer, as we'd never allow people to hurt/manipulate us without fighting back. But MLK encouraged people to let the white imperialists act like animals towards them, then force them to watch themselves act like violent savages towards peaceful people on TV news broadcasts later in the day. It worked for the intended purposes (Civil Rights Act), but that law is still largely ceremonial.

    The imperialists in "White Man's Burden" are perfectly aloof, disconnected and violent (police) just like the white Americans and government they are meant to portray. John Travolta and his family fill the media-reinforced stereotypical role of ignorant, poor people that must beg the imperialists for jobs, survive police savagery and live in a world where you are set up to fail and struggle just to survive. The most powerful scene IMO is when Don (Travolta's kid) is flipping through TV channels and he sees nothing but black people on every channel. The only white person who appeared while Don was channel surfacing was on a news station: a criminal wanted in connection with some type of crime. Don also preferred to buy a black toy action figure vs. a white one; the same self-hatred that is conditioned in real-life black people via media and public education.

    Its hard for white people to watch this movie objectively because they see their hero police as what they really are: gestapo thugs with badges that harass/assault people for no reason at all; and kill people simply because they like it. They are also forced to see the powerful conditioning imperial governments and societies force onto the oppressed class. Harry Belafonte was perfect for this role because he has lived a privileged existence for his entire life, but at the same time is a true activist who fights for the oppressed.

    This movie should be required viewing in all U.S. public junior highs. Hats off. Great film.
  • Jalea22 October 2002
    Warning: Spoilers
    *spoilers*

    Although I appreciate the premise,the film has a B-movie quality to it. It looked like a good TV movie rather than something you would look at in the theater. I would have liked better production values on a ground breaking movie like this.

    I was confused by John Travolta's performance. I wondered if he was trying to sound "street" or "black." He came across, however, as not too bright. Whatever he was attempting to do with the accent and mannerisms, it seemed so unnatural that it was somewhat distracting and took some getting used to.

    Among the elite class, there was only one white person and that was a girlfriend of Harry Belafonte's character's son. The seemed odd and I suppose that was the point. There also a few whites in service positions (like the maid, bank teller, officer assisting in eviction of John Travolta's character and family).

    I understood the message that was being conveyed. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see it for myself. And I still would recommend the movie. Because in spite of this movie's flaws, it got the message across I think.

    Before this movie, I would not have thought about what it would be like if racially, the tables were turned. Interestingly, the message was that if indeed the black people were the "elite" group in charge, things would not be any better. The ruling class ultimately gets corrupted by the absoluteness of their position -- I suppose that is the message that the film-makers were conveying.

    I wish this movie could be remade.
  • I saw this movie several years ago, and i can't quite remember it in details. but whenever people ask me which is the worst movie i've seen, this is the first one that pops up in my mind. harry belafonte did some horrible acting and travolta hit an all time career low. nuthing like "attica, attica!" in Saturday Night Fever
  • Well I have nothing but the utmost the respect for the actors in this crap movie.

    However, trying to make current American citizens guilty for the evil crimes of slavery that occurred over 100+ years ago, is just purely wrong.

    John Travolta is a good to fair actor, and there are many other good actors in this movie.

    If we truly want to encourage better treatment of each other, the best way is not about endlessly reminding us of the evil's of the past.

    But to encourage, promote and reward people for treating people fairly.

    This movie concept is horrible, execution is horrible.

    There is no remote redeeming value to this movie.

    I am very sorry to say that.
  • JJN1 December 1998
    This is a terribly acted and thoroughly ridiculous film. The film revels in its stupid gimmick of changing the positions of whites and blacks and beats the audience over the head with heavy handed "lessons" about racism. The movie is so un-subtle that it almost makes you laugh. Don't waste your time watching this movie.
  • arelia22 February 2001
    If the roles were reversed yet again, or if the roles had not been reversed in the first place, this movie would still be unrealistic. I can accept that all of the white people were poor and all of the black people were rich if the movie is supposed to focus on two specific families and a worse case scenario. But the film doesn't even do that right. Black people in Louis' situation would not necessarily be so unkempt and rude at work (check the scene when he was fired). They wouldn't be so irrational either. White people have come up with much more unfair/racist reasons to fire blacks than accusing them of peeping. The movie showed white people being inferior. What it should have done was show that white people weren't inferior but that they were still being treated as such. THAT would be realistic and meaningful. The movie is simple and offensive. The stereotypes and the portrayals are weak. The concept of role reversal might have potential, but White Man's Burden does not do that concept justice.
  • I think it's important to point out that, in the tease on the back of the DVD box, this movie is described as taking place in a "time" (not in a "world", or in a "society", or in an "alternate reality") where the traditional racial roles have been reversed. In other words, what some have described as "reverse racism", I think, qualifies more as a cautionary tale for the future. Look around you. How many aspects of this "alternate reality" have come/are coming to pass? Granted, other races/ethnicities have been left out (certainly, the decade-later "Crash" covered these issues in a more well-rounded way, without the extremes of "WMB"'s creative twist), but this movie seemed to be focused on a specific slice of the topic, which, although it's technically less realistic, gives it a more concentrated impact to those who can relate to what happens in the story (&/or its setting).
  • When I watched this in AP Government, after it was over and "discussion" began, I was very surprised to find myself one of the two or three people in the class who actually thought the film meant something. In my opinion, the magic of this movie comes in exactly there; it is over a huge number of people's heads. You MUST approach the movie allegorically to see its message at all, and once you do that, you have to have an open mind to see what the implications of that message are. I think Harry Belafonte is great, and casting was done very well. The movie is quite disturbing, whether or not you see beyond the "black and white" that is on the surface; and that is exactly the point. Skin color is circumstantial, and it is only by circumstance that society is broken down the way it is, and it could in another time or place, be the opposite. Very good movie, but it takes some deep thought to work it through.
  • CharltonBoy23 February 2002
    White man's burden definately had an interesting premise in the fact that the white man in the US was the oppressed and the minority race instead of the black man. So why didnt they make a film that was thought provoking and had any relivance to the above concept? What we got was a lame story about an employee who is unfairly sacked and who tries to get justice by getting the money he is owed from the boss of his company. The most stupid thing about the story is not the fact that it does not go into black white reversal enough but the fact of the Travolta character actually get his boss after 5 minutes to give him his money and his job back ,so why did he not accept that and go home? A pointless movie that is desperate to make a point.

    Another of John travolta's turkeys. 4 out of 10
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