It is the 20 year long chronicle of the fight that Wilberforce put up to reform the inhuman trafficking of slaves from every quarter of the African continent. The film would leave anybody with a heart and only half a conscience challenged by its powerful humanity.
Wilberforce is played by Ioan Gruffudd a Welch thespian known for his part in the Hornblower series and his role as Pip in the huge BBC production of Great Expectations. His role is played convincingly and with inundating conviction. It is fitting that Ioan (pronounced Yo-an) should play the part of Wilberforce who saw nothing but defeat in the parliament year after year. One of the quotes Ioan is most noted for saying is They say the most successful people are the ones who have failed more than they have succeeded.
Other great victories and reforms were eventually made by Wilberforce that are equally impressive although they are not part of the film. Wilberforce did much to improve the treatment of prisoners of war and was responsible for creating organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals. He helped to improve conditions in hospitals, created better conditions for the poor and crafted the means to aid the failing societal system of India all in the latter years of his life.
A wonderful resource for educators and history students is available from amazinggracemovie.com. A downloadable PDF file outlines the life and work of Wilberforce, a timeline of events and a very detailed history of the song Amazing Grace penned by Wilberforces mentor John Newton.
The actors and producers were not afraid to make known their understanding that Wilberforce and almost all who stood with him in his cause were Christians. The film clearly shows that it was their faith in Christ that compelled them to seek an end to the cruelty of slavery. They make many references to God and their dependence on him to aid them in their cause. References to Jesus Christ are not hidden and adherence and obedience to the scriptures is seen as part and parcel to their private and public lives.
Whether we like it or not every movie good or bad has a message connected to it, a philosophy or perhaps a philosophy of life. That message may be vigorously put forth or only subtly intimated. Amazing Grace puts forth several messages and it begs at least one very pertinent question especially for Americans.
The primary message seems to be that true Christianity calls for social action to accompany faith and obedience to God. That can mean anything from getting out to vote or taking a proactive stance for or against a cause or a much needed change to benefit a community, state or the entire nation.
Americans tend to throw in the towel when it becomes difficult to see anything being accomplished by our august body politic. Elections have been won by indifference which put people in power that should never have been. That indifference is often reflected in the general lack of political cognizance many of us display. As an example not long ago a poll concluded that almost fifty percent of Americans polled thought that Hezbollah was a friendly ally to the United States. If asked to define something as simple as the difference between a liberal and a conservative you may get more answers than you bargained for.
Between the antics and upheaval of the ACLU and a barrage of all new anti Christian voices it may be the most important time in our history for Christians to awake out of their political haze and get active. There is much at stake.
A second message the movie puts forth can hardly go un-noticed. Almost every significant move forward in the deep fabric of civilization was driven by Christian principles as derived from the Bible. The social status of women, better care for the sick, the poor and the outcast are all predicated on the strong teachings of Christ regarding showing mercy to even the lowest of mankind. The Crusades and the inquisitions stand alone and do not reflect the true teachings of Christ. Check closely and you will see they werent predicated or based on the Word of God.
A third important message easily derived from the film is that some victories require much more than a single battle. In real warfare it is often a series of victories and defeats with the enduring and most highly motivated armies coming out ahead even if they were not the most powerful to start with.
When the movie begins the parliament has a circus like air and the seriousness of Wilberforces contentions are scoffed at by all. After years of pounding, pummeling and persistence hardly anyone in the British Parliament would dare not to take him seriously. He may have grown only slightly more eloquent with the years but it was not his spit and polish that finally won the day.
The British can take pride for producing such a remarkable character and statesmen but for America the film raises a rather obvious question. Where are the films about the great Christian statesmen and founding fathers of this country? Perhaps even harder is the question of who has the guts to even propose such a film in the present climate of denial about our Christian founding principles?
It has been said often that William Wilberforce was in his time the very conscience of the British Parliament. More of note is what guided the conscience of Mr. Wilberforce. It is summarized by the very scriptures that William Wilberforce took as seriously as everything else he believed.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Philippians 2: 3-5