Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amazing Grace

We went to see Amazing Grace last night. It's the story of William Wilberforce, the British MP whose long campaign resulted in the abolition of the British slave trade in 1807. It includes great performances by Ioan Gruffudd (as Wilberforce) and Rufus Sewell (as Thomas Clarkson) among others. I think Albert Finney's electrifying performance alone makes this a must-see movie. He has a small role as John Newton, a slave trader who, after repenting, became an Anglican priest and wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.

All of this might sound dry as toast, but it is a great movie about a largely unknown chapter of history. From our vantage point it can be hard to understand why such an obvious evil as slavery was so difficult to abolish, but the issue was entangled with other concerns of the day -- concerns like war with France and the revolutionary movements cascading across Europe. The movie effectively explains the broad historical context without ever becoming just a documentary. It's a reminder of the horrors of slavery, the ability of men (even great men) to defend great evil in the face of fear, and the rare courage it takes to not only speak truth to power but to tirelessly work for change.

No comments: