William Wilberforce Arrives in America on February 23, 2007

Whether it’s any good or not, I can tell you already that the film Amazing Grace will likely win honors from many Christian film critics merely because of its subject.

Michael Apted, director of the “Up” series (7 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, etc…), has directed the film, which focuses on the life of the great abolitionist and Christian, William Wilberforce. And it has just won a U.S. distribution deal, thanks to Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions. The film will screen for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it will open in America on February 23, which just so happens to be the the 200th anniversary of the British parliamentary vote to abolish slavery.

Amazing Grace stars Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as William Wilberforce, and Albert Finney as the Rev. John Newton. It also stars one of my favorite young actresses… Romola Garai. And the supporting cast includes Rufus Sewell, , Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, and somebody named Benedict Cumberbatch. (Wasn’t that the real name of the Penguin in Batman Returns? Oh, wait, no, that was Oswald Cobblepot. My bad.)

I do sincerely hope that Amazing Grace is an excellent piece of work. The February release date has me concerned. Does that mean that the studio doesn’t view it as potential Oscar material? It has a great deal of formidable talent attached to it, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. Let’s just hope they match the important and inpsiring story with important and inspiring filmmaking excellence. Because, contrary to what a lot of folks who email me insist, message isn’t everything. Excellence really does matter… and not just to us, but to God.

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  • Anonymous

    I finally saw “Pan’s Labyrinth” today. Amazing indeed.

  • Clay

    I saw a preview of Amazing Grace presented by Walden Media at the ICRS (formerly known as CBA) in July. I know trailers can be very deceiving, especially early release previews, but I was transfixed by this one. The acting we saw was captivating, the cinematography appeared to be high quality, and if the rest of the film holds up to the preview it will be a film of considerable power and inspiration. I hope I’m not proved wrong about my initial impression, but I think it will be a good, possibly great film.

    The February 23 release date has nothing to do with the Oscars. It corresponds with the anniversary of the signing of the Abolition Act in England on Feb. 23, 1807, which Wilberforce championed tirelessly for about 20 years after his conversion to Christianity.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    The film will screen for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival . . .

    Actually, it will be screened at a Jim Wallis event in Pasadena on September 8, eight days before it screens at the TIFF.