Alternate History White Ghetto in "White Man's Burden"

An uneven but evocative standout in the small subgenre of science fiction movies about race is the alternate history White Man's Burden, directed by Desmond Nakano and hitting screens in 1995 with high-wattage stars Harry Belafonte and John Travolta. Set in a contemporary America where blacks are the ruling class and whites live in ghettos, the movie begins with two fascinating scenes: magnate Belafonte tells a high-society dinner party that whites are inferior, then we cut to our working-class white protagonist Travolta driving through the white ghetto. Notice that there's a quick shot of two black cops arresting a white guy, and when we see Travolta's son channel-surfing, nearly every face on TV is black. Also, I love that the white gangsters are listening to bad metal. The movie sank without a trace, partly because Nakano neglected to engage meaningfully with the social world he's created, instead quickly turning the movie into a standard hostage flick with angry, out-of-work Travolta kidnapping Belafonte and everybody yelling and sweating a lot.

White Man's Burden on Rotten Tomatoes.


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