Amazing Grace (2006)

Dir. Michael Apted
Starring: Ioan Grufford,

Maybe other idiots would give this a slightly higher rating, but I’m not going to recommend this. The film’s subject is worthy of your attention and would interest most of you, but I would recommend getting it in another format (e.g. book, documentary).

This is the story of the abolition of slavery in England in the 19th Century, focusing on one of the key abolitionist in Parliment, William Wilburforce. If you’re familiar with British Parliment, you know that the arguments can be combative. I generally like seeing debates, but I found the scenes lacking in rhetorical power or even good drama. The other question some of you may have is the relationship between Wilburforce and the song, “Amazing Grace.” To me, the connection is very tenuous and could have been omitted from the film.

Films like this (others are Amistad, Talk to Me, Good Night and Good Luck) surprise me because while the subject matter is interesting, even inspiring and important, the cinematic results are flat. What I’m beginning to feel is that while some historical incidents are compelling and important, they are not a always well-suited for the feature film treatment (while they would probably be suited for a documentary.) I don’t think I can clearly articulate the critical qualities that would make a historical event suitable for a feature film. But let mention one: if the results on the screen are essentially the same thing the audience could get through another medium–in other words, the film medium doesn’t add anything to the telling of the story–than the story probably won’t be suited for a feature film. In Amazing Grace, I basically felt that a good lecture or book would have been just as good, if not better than the film.

Having said all of this, I will admit to one compelling reason for making stories like this into feature length films (which does not make the film well-suited for a feature film), namely the fact that they will reach a wider audience, especially an audience that doesn’t read or watch documentaries. The approach has validity, but I’m just not interested in seeing these type of films.

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