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In 1797, William Wilberforce, the great crusader for the British abolition of slavery, is taking a vacation for his health even while he is sicker at heart for his frustrated cause. However, meeting the charming Barbara Spooner, Wilberforce finds a soulmate to share the story of his struggle. With few allies such as his mentor, John Newton, a slave ship captain turned repentant priest who penned the great hymn, "Amazing Grace," Prime William Pitt, and Olaudah Equiano, the erudite former slave turned author, Wilberforce fruitlessly fights both public indifference and moneyed opposition determined to keep their exploitation safe. Nevertheless, Wilberforce finds the inspiration in newfound love to rejuvenate the fight with new ideas that would lead to a great victory for social justice. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
A special screening of the film was shown in Buncrana, Co. Donegal in Ireland. This was in celebration of John Newton's link with the county, when in 1748 his slave ship, the Greyhound, came ashore after surviving a terrible storm. This event began the spiritual journey for Newton, which culminated in his authorship of the song, Amazing Grace. See more »
During the hymn Amazing Grace sung at the wedding, Barbara is seen singing "but now am free" but is heard singing "but now I see". See more »
This is a lovely, moving and intelligent film. I did not detect any notably weak performances among a remarkable cast. The older actors though, Michael Gambon and Albert Finney, were shameless scene stealers, but one can hardly fault them for their excellence. There were many things to like about this film. It was gorgeous to look at, brilliantly capturing the look and sound of a sumptuous age. The pacing and editing were fine, though the device using flashbacks for most of the film occasionally led to a moments confusion about when a scene was supposed to be taking place. And the story itself is quite inspirational. A note for my Canadian readers and the Canadians who attended the TIFF screenings. The film mostly covered the struggle to outlaw slavery in Britain itself, though they did touch on Wilberforce's efforts to have it outlawed throughout the British Empire. This continued in the years after the conclusion of the film, and a Bill to do just that was passed in 1833, a month after Wilberforce died. So the film we watched was very much about our own history, and the story of the abolition of slavery in Britain directly affected the eventual abolition of slavery in Canada.
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