Spring 2016

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34 CINEMONTAGE / Q2 2016 "Behold, Kunta Kinte…" I f those words ring a bell, you were around for Roots, one of the most forward-thinking and groundbreaking events in the history of television. Executive produced by David L. Wolper and based on Alex Haley's bestselling book of the same title, Roots aired for eight consecutive nights on the ABC television network in January 1977. The 12-hour miniseries, which won nine Emmy awards, depicted the horrors of slavery to American audiences in ways never seen before. Airing only a dozen years after the struggle for racial equality and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which forbade discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin — Roots had the network worried about how audiences would respond to a television show where blacks were portrayed positively, while whites were depicted in a negative light. So instead of airing the miniseries over many weeks, as originally planned, ABC virtually buried it in an eight-night run in the middle of winter, assuming few people would watch and that Roots would ultimately be but a blip on the television radar. But the response was quite the opposite: Millions of viewers tuned in and ratings were through the roof, making the miniseries one of the most successful television events of all time. Although Roots entered the American lexicon, the production itself has not withstood the test of time. A new generation has little interest in sitting down to watch this eight-part series. But it is a story that must be told. And retold. And that it will Not Your Grandfather's 'Roots' Editing the Update of an Acknowledged Epic by Laura Almo • portraits by Gregory Schwartz Clockwise from top left: James Wilcox, editor; Neil Mandelberg, editor; David Beatty, editor; Marty Nicholson, editor; Greg Babor, editor; Susana Benaim, assistant editor; Victoria Grimsley, assistant editor; and Agustin "Auggie" Rexach, assistant editor. A scene from Roots. HISTORY

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