We’ve seen a spate of reviews, articles, and blog posts discussing Traces of the Trade in recent days, motivated largely by upcoming screenings at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival and the forthcoming national broadcast premiere on PBS.

From the New York TimesStephen Holden of The New York Times calls the film a “far-reaching documentary” whose “implications … are devastating.” He also observes that “the old saying that ‘behind every great fortune there is a crime’ echoes silently throughout the movie, which extends that notion to implicate an entire society.”

The Hartford Advocate describes the film as a “well-researched, candid and intelligent exploration” of the role of the slave trade in our nation’s history. The reviewer also calls the documentary “gut-wrenching and intense” and “powerfully moving,” and concludes that this “glimpse into the still-raw wounds of slavery” is “perhaps the best way to honor the professed democratic ideals of the founding fathers.”

Jessica Mosby, writing for the Women’s International Perspective, heaps praise on the film, calling it “powerful” and “incredibly well executed,” and its discussions “intense” and “very candid.” She goes on to argue that the documentary “starts an important and often uncomfortable dialogue about race,” and that “the film is truly a microcosm for the larger debate that Americans need to have about race and responsibility.”

Mosby’s review emphasizes the variety of perspectives represented in the film, observing that “different family members felt very differently about guilt and responsibility.” She also takes care to point out that while not everyone has such a dramatic family background, the benefits from slavery were spread throughout the U.S. economy, and all Americans can, and should, participate in the conversation.

am New YorkAccording to am New York (“Manhattan’s largest circulation daily”), the film is “a work of poetic introspection … at once a haunting ghost story and powerful soul-baring apology.” Traces of the Trade “simultaneously takes on an important subject and proves its maker’s mastery of the documentary form.”

Other newspapers term the documentary “poignant,” “clever throughout,” and “soft-spoken but intensely worded.” Another reviewer proclaims the film “sensitive,” “emotional,” and “thoughtful,” while a columnist describes the film as “a stark reminder of how far this nation has come—and the distance it must yet go to live up to its great promise.”

In These TimesThe magazine In These Times says that “the most interesting part is watching DeWolf family members slowly owning the problem”: “What could have been just another bath in liberal guilt becomes a frank and fascinating examination into the ways that the privileged make their peace with inequality.” The reviewer, Pat Aufderheide, concludes that “Traces of the Trade has spurred provocative conversations at festivals …. Its TV debut could provide an opportunity for broader and deeper dialogue—at a timely moment, when the national elections have brought race back into focus.”

Online, Filmcritic.com gives Traces four stars, calling it “thought-provoking work in the way that few films ever come close to even attempting.” Newsblaze refers to the film as “a remarkable documentary … brave and sobering … a labor of love.” Culturekiosque tells its readers that, “in this bicentennial year of the U.S. abolition of the slave trade, the film offers powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.”

David Crumm, at the inspirational site Read the Spirit, reviews the film for religious audiences and finds it “remarkable” and “stunning,” urging churchgoers to watch the film in small groups and hold discussions afterwards. He points out that the film does not always take viewers where they expect, noting that “there are moments in the film in which [the director] completely surprises us by adding other voices to the story—including scenes at the very end of the film.”

A variety of bloggers have also commented on the film in recent days. Lauren Wissot, the director and film critic who writes at The House Next Door, proclaims Traces her “top pick … for mesmerizing subject matter” at the Human Rights Watch festival, while another blogger announces that the “film is a great start to a dialogue I hope every American will eventually embrace.”

Finally, from the always thoughtful and thought-provoking blog, Know Good White People, comes this plea:

I want to write something compelling that will make you want to NOT MISS THIS FILM, but every review I attempt does not do this documentary justice, so I’ll just say TUNE IN to PBS and watch this one — You’ll be glad you did.

Traces of the Trade will be screened on Sunday, June 22 and Monday, June 23 at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City, and will have its national broadcast premiere on the PBS series P.O.V. starting on June 24 at 10:00pm. (Check local listings for the date and time in your area.)

2 Responses to “Recent reviews of “Traces of the Trade””

  1. Inheriting the Trade says:

    […] my cousin James Perry has posted an excellent blog about the various articles at his site, Impertinent Questions. I’m not going to recreate his work. I’m going to redirect you […]

  2. rizik p says:

    MJPC Joined HRW in Calling to Hold the Congolese Army Accountable for War Crimes

    Failing to hold accountable soldiers who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity will result in continued sexual violence against girls and women in the DR Congo, says MJPC.

    (PRWEB) June 13, 2009 — The Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC) called for a full inquiry into new allegations of continuing rape and sexual violence committed by the Congolese Army after a recent report by Human Rights Watch revealed shocking new evidence. The report documents how the Congolese Army (FARDC) has been committing serious human rights abuses that amount to war crimes in East Congo and calls on the UN Security Council to demand the Congolese Government to immediatly investigate and hold accountable soldiers responsible for war crimes.

    The MJPC is gravely concerned at continuing reports of sexual violence in eastern Congo. Makuba Sekombo, MJPC's Community Affairs Director, stresses "paramount importance of sending a clear message to all armed groups in the region – and to the victims of sexual violence in the DR Congo – that rape and other forms of sexual violence are unacceptable and will not be tolerated regardless of the circumstances". "Congolese army officers are not above international criminal law", and "Congo has clear international law obligations to do something effective to protect girls and women from sexual violence" added Sekombo.

    paramount importance of sending a clear message to all armed groups in the region – and to the victims of sexual violence in the DR Congo – that rape and other forms of sexual violence are unacceptable and will not be tolerated regardless of the circumstances

    Rather than receiving appropriate medical and psychosocial care, women and child survivors of rape and sexual violence in eastern Congo continue to face rejection and stigma while the perpetrators of the crime go unpunished. The MJPC has launched an online petition calling on the Congolese Government to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence which will encourage victims of sexual violence in Eastern Congo to report perpetrators to police and to express their needs for access to medical treatment, psychological services and other social resources. The petition can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html . "While no amount of money can reverse or address the impact of sexual violence on victims, the MJPC maintains that in this way, society at large, through the government, can acknowledge the humiliation suffered, shock and pain experienced by victims and provide the resources to help victims rebuild their lives.

    About MJPC

    MJPC is a non-profit organization working to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished.

    Makuba Sekombo

    MJPC, Community Affairs Director



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