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Nightjohn (1996)

Beau Bridges , Lorraine Toussaint , Charles Burnett  |  PG-13 |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)

Price: $6.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Nightjohn + Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad + Up From Slavery
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Product Details

  • Actors: Beau Bridges, Lorraine Toussaint
  • Directors: Charles Burnett
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0008FXT4Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,695 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nightjohn" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Beau Bridges, Carl Lumbly, Lorraine Toussaint. Sarny, a 12-year-old slave girl, faces a bleak future until Nightjohn arrives and takes Sarny under his wing. Risking his life, Nightjohn secretly teaches Sarny to read and write. Words are freedom," he says-but even freedom comes with a price. 1996/color/96 min/PG-13/fullscreen.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
143 of 144 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands on its own two feet May 7, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
African-American auteur Charles Burnett is best known for neorealist dramas like _A Killer of Sheep_, but his first foray into television is widely regarded as his masterpiece. The New Yorker's Terrence Rafferty proclaimed _Nightjohn_ the "best American movie of 1996." I agree.

The plot concerns Sarny, a twelve-year-old slave girl who learns to read, and uses her knowledge to expose and undermine the plantation power structure. Performances are excellent -- newcomer Allison Jones is especially good as Sarny -- and Burnett's direction is honest and forthright. Although _Nightjohn_ has a strong pro-education message, it is conveyed with plenty of suspenseful drama and a bare minimum of preachiness. Family filmmaking doesn't get better than this.

The _Nightjohn_ DVD, like the laserdisc edition before it, presents the film in its original full-frame ratio without supplements or bonuses. The transfer and sound are adequate -- and given the price, that's about as much as anyone can reasonably expect.

Note to parents: For a film that features no profanity, no sex or nudity, and only a few instances of onscreen violence, the PG-13 rating on this DVD seems excessive. _Nightjohn_ is not for young children, because it strongly suggests the horror and brutality of American slavery. But I'd recommend this film for ages 9 and up, with parental supervision. (Be prepared for a long, thoughtful discussion afterwards.)
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom is Reading! January 1, 2002
Format:VHS Tape
I love this movie, the first time I saw it was at a showing given by the Delta's, a African American female sorority at the International House in Philadelphia. It was like history coming alive before my eyes, the lesson it taught on the value of education was unforgettable.
When the lights went up, we were engaged in a dialogue led by poet, Sonia Sanchez on the impact of what we viewed and how relevant it was to all educators and students today.
I could only keep asking how to purchase the video!! A few days later I visited my video rental store and their it was on the was sold to me for $10!
I have since purchased over half a dozen [...] and given as gifts to lovers of American history. I also present workshops on slavery, Civil War and Literature in many schools, that connect to my storytelling work, featuring the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar. I often recommend this video to the teachers to show in the middle to university level before I come to the classroom or assembly.

It is realistically powerful! Excellent acting by all! Beautiful visuals and a great storyline from the cabin to the big house.
I gave the last one away to a friend who is working on a Slavery Museum here in Philadelphia, so I keep ordering more!
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Power of Reading February 5, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This is a beautiful story about the power of reading. The film gives a moving insight into the condition of slavery in general and those who tried to open the door to literacy in particular. It is wonderfully acted, directed, and written. I showed it to my 8th grade reading class and they were enthralled. (And it isn't easy to enthrall 8th graders these days) Once you see it you will never forget it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why read and write? September 15, 2002
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
I use the book with reluctant readers and writers (middle to high school)to get them to see that "universal, free, public education" was not always available to all and how valuable the abilities to read and write are. Then we watch the film which is an excellent adaptation of the book. Readers/viewers might also want to read Paulsen's sequel, Sarny. Both are interesting turns for Paulsen, best known for his coming of age/wilderness novels, especially Hatchet. Paulsen is one of the best contemporary writers of description...check out the opening page to his book, The Winter Room.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ABSOLUTE KEEPER! A MUST-SEE! 10 STARS! May 15, 2007
I stumbled across this movie plumbing Amazon as I do for AA movies. This movie will DEFINITELY be going onto my christmas list! I won't rehash the plot, but let me add a few things. This movie is full of layers that might go unnoticed, especially to younger audiences, but they are powerful nontheless. It is rare to see a movie about antebellum south that shows characters with so many dimensions. For instance:

1. It is rare to see a movie address the much earlier abolition of the slave trade in England. One of the Master's guests make a point of leaving the table, unwilling to participate in the fruits of slavery, presumably not feeling charitable to those uncivilized enough to do so.

2. As the plantation is on the brink of bankruptcy, we see the master is as odious to his own family as he is to his slaves. He demands that his son work alongside the slaves, and is later surprised when his oldest son essentially removes him from handling his own affairs, in much the dismissive way he has always treated his family.

3. The black slave driver is shown to be on the fringes of society, as an unwelcome interloper, never in, never out, and always able to lose that status at the drop of a dime.

4. The prevalence of guns, pointed by both white and black men at the slaves demonstrates more than anything else the fact that many southerners lived in fear of their slaves. Often, these movies show caricatures of the races, but this movie shows how ambivalent and precarious positions of power could be.

5. When he talks about his wife, John describes a woman who made a sacrifice of sale to protect her child. It is a little known fact that many men in the south found themselves on the receiving end of violence at the hands of women that they "owned".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowledge is Power
Love this. Its a bit harsh for young kids but it certainly does show the value of education. Its crazy to watch something like this then seeing all these kids dropping out of... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Dezirea Noker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great movie!
Published 1 month ago by Sherry
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by bennie kirksey
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best fictional movies on slavery*!*
This movie is my favorite of all time. The value of education is key in this wonderful Disney movie. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Oni Lasana
4.0 out of 5 stars FREEDOM ISN'T FREE
Another good addition to your Black History collection of movies. It makes me appreciate being able to get an education, to go where I want to go and to have all the freedoms I... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Margaret Franklin
1.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't view it because I couldn't understand the dialog.
Granted, I'm hard of hearing. But that's why we now have closed captioning. Why, then, do companies produce DVD's that have no captions available? Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Wygmans
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Film
Similar to 12 years a Slave, except this man voluntarily became a slave so he could teach reading. I thought it was even better. Well played by all.
Published 3 months ago by HARDEN
5.0 out of 5 stars My students have loved this movie
I teach high school Language Arts and use this movie in my American Literature class in connection with an excerpt from Frederick Douglass's autobiography, My Bondage and My... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mary Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Sounds Good
I have not looked at it yet but it was a good price so I bought it to add to my collection.
Published 6 months ago by Lafloyd and Diva
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film!
This was a part of a text set we are teaching in our remedial English classes. This movie follows the novel fairly closely.
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
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