Thursday, October 5, 2006

"Amazing Grace"

Introduced at the Toronto Film Festival and coming to theaters in February, Amazing Grace (from Walden, which produces the Narnia films) recounts the struggle to abolish slavery in the British Empire (Variety Reviews via Filmchat):
"In 1797, 34-year-old Evangelical antislavery firebrand William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), consumed by his cause, exhausted by the vicious Parliament in-fighting and wracked by colitis, retires to the country home of his friends Henry and Marianne Thornton (Nicholas Farrell, Sylvestra Le Touzel). While on the mend, he recounts his struggles to admirer Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai).

Cut to eight years prior, when Wilberforce, whom everybody seems to call 'Wilbur,' is persuaded by close friend and future Prime Minister William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) to introduce legislation to end the slave trade in the British Empire.

Wilberforce, who was only 21 when he was elected to the House of Commons, joins Pitt, who at 24 became the youngest P.M. in Britain's history, to lead a contentious and complex fight for antislavery legislation against chief opponents Lord Tarlton (Ciaran Hinds) and the Duke of Clarence (Toby Jones)."
The film title, of course, comes from the hymn by John Newton, former slaver, Christian convert, and active abolitionist, who was an ally of Wilberforce in the cause.

As in the United States, the anti-slavery movement in Britain was led by evangelical Christians motivated by their faith and despite self-interest.

I am reminded of Bernard Lewis' statement: “Imperialism, sexism, and racism, are not European inventions, but European words, without which the evils they refer to would never have been challenged.”

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