the friend online
23 March 2007


Amazing Grace: the movie - preview

Chas Raws reviews a film that has faced controversy

The previews of the film Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce and the parliamentary struggle to secure the abolition of the slave trade, have already met with condemnation from some black church and community leaders
  • They accuse it of 'prettifying' slavery by showing little of its actual cruelty and focusing exclusively on the privileged lifestyle of one white campaigner
  • Having been invited to one of the previews I would say that the criticism is not justified because a film or drama of any kind has to concentrate its attention in order to be effective and Amazing Grace gives a compelling account of a major parliamentary campaign and the Christian vocation of its best known protagonist
  • There are few shots of slaves because few of them reached England, except as household servants for the aristocracy, and one of the main problems of the campaigners was to convince their countrymen of the appalling conditions in which slaves were living and working in the West Indies
  • This aspect of the campaign is covered by a scene in which Thomas Clarkson presents instruments of restraint and punishment to a shocked audience, another where the former slave Olaudah Equiano signs copies of his influential autobiography, and a third in which Wilberforce harangues a passing boatload of aristocrats from the deck of a slave ship moored in the Thames and then shows some of them the conditions in which slaves are being transported

  • Chas Raws

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    William Allen
    Briony Hudson
    Quakers and the path to abolition in Britain and the colonies
    Heather Rowland, Librarian, Library of the Society of Friends
    Amazing Grace: the movie
    Chas Raws
    The politics of abolition
    Michael Bartlet & Clare-Marie White
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