...the first installment, directed by Phillip Noyce, starts out strongly and chronicles Kunta’s life in Gambia with a great deal of energy. Though the horrors of the Middle Passage are depicted with sensitivity by Noyce (one of four directors on the project), much of the rest of the opener tells the story of Kunta and his world in the years before he landed as a slave in Maryland...The palpable detail and atmosphere of Kunta’s home and culture strongly ground everything that comes after, especially his pride, his strength and his continual resistance to the shackles imposed on him.
The first new episode, much of it shot in South Africa, looks stunning, another sign of the cultural times.
The producers brought their A-game, too. They clearly took steps to give the production a sense of reality, raw edge and historical accuracy that contemporary television viewers demand. For example, the African scenes for the 1977 original were shot in Georgia, but the modern version actually ventured to South Africa, and the cinematography is gorgeous.
The directors find a way to make each chapter distinctive. Noyce strikes an immediate contrast between the open spaces and free-moving camera work in the African scenes and the claustrophobia of Kunta's oceanic voyage.