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From the makers of Ray, AMAZING GRACE tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through.
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This film can be seen from several viewpoints -
1) English political history explaining how slavery was 'abolished' in the British Empire.
2) Biographical presentation of the life of William Wilberforce and his influence on abolition.
3) The impact of the "evangelical'' movement in Britain during the nineteenth century.
4) Description of the reasons and economic justification of slavery.
Every scene adds to the narrative. From the opening shot of Wilberforce defending an exhausted horse suffering a beating, to the touching romantic story of how he met and married a beautiful young woman, to his deep friendship with Pitt, all add wonderfully to our understanding of Wilberforce and his world. Marvelous!
One theme that runs throughout is the religious motives of the abolitionists, with the exception of Pitt and later Fox. Wilberforce is recruited by the evangelical movement since he is a prominent member of parliament and shares their faith. When Pitt is dying, he reveals 'I am afraid', then adds 'I wish I had your faith'. The evangelicals support and embrace the former slave Equanio. He talks and writes in ways that touches the heart. Great!
Wilberforce and his deep pain of heart and then physical intestinal agony clearly presented. Doctors prescribe laudanum (opiate) that affects his metal state. He finally abandons that treatment. The French Revolution and then the napoleonic war, convulsed England with war fever. Wilberforce and his focus on slavery was viewed as anti-English. He was reviled. His health, his emotional state, his mental outlook, all suffered. Who wouldn't?
Nevertheless, he started again. What a inspirational example to - never give up, never give in!
One poignant scene is Wilberforce arguing with Clarkson over the ongoing French Revolution. Clarkson believes it will bring 'the perfect society'. London will (should) be next. Wilberforce responds 'a imperfect order is better than no order at all'. Sternly forbids Clarkson from ever mentioning revolution in England again. Good illustration of the difference between France and England.
My wife and I watch this history with my grandson each year. Find more details and insights each time. The clear value of genuine faith, and the astonishing impact, highlights the contrast with today's world, where faith is out of sight.
But this hymn has been so greatly associated with American gospel churches (especially in the South) that it is surprising to learn this timelessly inspirational hymn was actually composed in 1779 by the Christian Church of England clergyman-poet John Newton (who was once a slave-ship captain, but became an abolitionist after religious-conversion)
And as this important film 'Amazing Grace' (directed by Michael Apted) details = the way Englishman William Wilberforce was inspired by his own-faith to work feverishly for decades to put an End to the deeply-immoral Slave Trade in England (and the Atlantic Sea-routes)
Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (who also played Reed Richards in the Fantastic-Four films) does an excellent & convincing portrayal of the devoutly-resolute William Wilberforce. Albert Finney also offers a quite authentic performance as John Newton who after conversion to Christianity realizes tremendous regret over ever being involved in the immoral slave-trade and is acutely 'haunted' by the tens-of-thousands he transported/condemned to permanent bondage. Wilberforce is profoundly moved to action hearing Newton's burdensome guilt/ and need for repentance.
This film & true-Story also effectively conveys the idea that the struggle to end the slave-trade in England (and elsewhere) took incredible courage and tireless persistence/perseverance over many years/decades (due to ingrained resistance from the status-quo establishment) There were many times in Wilberforce's Life that he felt the anti-Slavery Laws introduced in British Parliament would never pass (in his own time). But fortunately, Wilberforce was able to finally see the 'Slavery Abolition Act 1833' pass into Law a few days before his own death (and he was also highly instrumental in the passage of the earlier 'Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807') This is important history (that deserves remembrance)
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