|White Man's Burden|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Desmond Nakano|
|Produced by||Lawrence Bender|
|Written by||Desmond Nakano|
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Edited by||Nancy Richardson|
|Distributed by||Savoy Pictures|
|Box office||$3,760,525 (US)|
White Man's Burden is a 1995 American drama film about racism, set in an alternative America where the social and economic positions of Black people and White people are reversed. The film was written and directed by Desmond Nakano. The film revolves around Louis Pinnock (John Travolta), a white factory worker, who kidnaps Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte), a black factory owner for firing him over a perceived slight.
At dinner, wealthy black CEO Thaddeus Thomas discusses white people and claims they are "genetically inferior" because the children grow up without fathers.
Trying to improve himself, white candy factory worker Louis Pinnock offers to deliver a package to Thomas after his shift. Pinnock is let into the property by a white servant at the security gate point in front of the Thomas residence and accidentally views Thomas's wife naked through the window. Thomas notices and complains to the VP at the factory, during a dinner engagement at his house, that he would prefer a different delivery man instead of a "Peeping Tom". Although Thomas does not suggest any form of punishment towards Pinnock, the VP "gets the message" and immediately fires Pinnock. Pinnock returns to the Thomas residence in an attempt to discuss the misunderstanding with Thomas, but because Thomas is in an important business meeting, he refuses and sends a message to Pinnock that he apologizes, but there is nothing that he can do to help him. Pinnock begs for two minutes of his time, but is turned away.
Without any education or advanced skills, Pinnock finds difficulty getting a job and is unable to support his family. The Pinnock family are awakened one early morning by the police and the landlord to enforce eviction; the family struggles to gather their important belongings as they vacate the premises. Pinnock's mother-in-law scolds him for failing as a man; she says there is not enough room for him at her house where his wife and two children are going.
Pinnock's truck breaks down and he is forced to walk. At night, Pinnock is apprehended by the police who mistake him for a bank robber because "he fit the description". The people inside a bar come outside and shout at the police, demanding that they leave Pinnock alone. Pinnock is beaten by the police but they are chased away by the angry mob.
In a quest for justice, Pinnock kidnaps Thomas at gunpoint and demands a large sum of money that he believes is owed him for losing his job. After multiple failed attempts to withdraw the money, Pinnock holds Thomas hostage for the weekend and takes him through the ghetto where he lives. Thomas, however, remains unsympathetic to Pinnock and calls him a failure who blames the world for his problems. But Pinnock takes Thomas through the ghetto anyway, and Thomas alternates between enjoying some of the staples of ghetto life and having his eyes open to this world's racism. Pinnock calls the police to aid Thomas in his breathing problems but is mistakenly shot and killed because the police assume he is armed.
The chastened CEO visits Pinnock's grieving widow and offers her the money that Louis requested. She refuses it, and when Thomas awkwardly asks if she wants more, she bluntly says "How much would ever be enough?" and closes the door in his face.
- John Travolta as Louis Pinnock
- Harry Belafonte as Thaddeus Thomas
- Kelly Lynch as Marsha Pinnock
- Margaret Avery as Megan Thomas
- Tom Bower as Stanley
- Andrew Lawrence as Donnie Pinnock
- Bumper Robinson as Martin
- Tom Wright as Lionel
- Sheryl Lee Ralph as Roberta
- Judith Drake as Dorothy
- Robert Gossett as John
- Wesley Thompson as Williams
- Tom Nolan as Johansson
- Willie C. Carpenter as Marcus
- Michael Beach as a policeman
- Carrie Snodgress as Josine
The film gained a negative reception from critics. It holds a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 33 reviews. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "C" on scale of A+ to F.
The film was not a box office success, though the very small budget meant its losses were also minimal; it was widely seen as a blip on the radar during John Travolta's massive comeback as a film star during the post-Pulp Fiction phase of his career.
- Fable (TV play) - a 1965 about similar subject matter.
- BabaKiueria - a 1986 Australian mockumentary about an oppressed white minority in a society dominated by Aboriginal Australians.
- Lion's Blood - a 2002 alternate history novel about an alternate world where an Islamic Africa is the center of technological progress and learning while Europe remains largely tribal and backward.
- Noughts and Crosses (TV series) - a 2020 television series, based on the novels by Malorie Blackman, about similar subject matter.
- Weinraub, Bernard (1995-02-06). "Turning the Tables on Race Relations". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Willman, Chris (1995-03-19). "Turnabout of Foul Play : In 'White Man's Burden,' John Travolta and Harry Belafonte tilt racism on its head, in a universe where black culture dominates. Get ready to rock your world". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Mathews, Jack (1995-12-01). "MOVIE REVIEW : Racial Role Reversal in 'White Man's Burden'". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Hicks, Chris (1995-12-05). "Film review: White Man's Burden". Deseret News. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- LaSalle, Mick (1995-12-01). "FILM REVIEW - Blacks Have the Power In `White Man's Burden'". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Ebert, Roger (1995-12-01). "White Man's Burden". SunTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "White Man's Burden (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 2019-09-28.
- "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Welkos, Robert W. (1995-12-05). "Weekend Box Office : 'Toy Story' on a Roll". Los Angeles Times. LATimes.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.