I guess the right thing comes along at just the right time. God is like that, popping up when you least expect him. Mired in my own black creation of life, I have been scratching frantically at habit and ritual to pull me back from the abyss that is depression. How little did I know. A movie made all the difference in the world.
We have basic cable and I’m not complaining. We find that most of the premiere movie channels rotate the same three movies all month anyway. The upside is that, in order to entice us to order, they periodically have a free weekend. The Contrarian scours the channels and arranges to tape every movie we might enjoy. Sometimes there are a couple, sometimes a bonanza. We watched one of those captures last night, and I would like to tell you about it, and encourage you to watch it.
Made in 2006, it stars Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce, known as Wilber to his friends. And his friends were powerful indeed. William Pitt, the youngest Prime Minister in British history was one of his closest friends.
Wilberforce lost his father at age 9 and inherited great wealth. He enjoyed himself for many years, and was generally an unbeliever, at least in Christ. Traveling Europe with a friend, twice, he finally came to believe. For a time, he felt that he should follow the religious life, but Pitt talked him out of it, as did his good friend and parson, John Newton. He became an MP and looked for a cause.
Slavery became that cause. The movie is the history of how he and a band of committed Englishmen over a long period of time finally rid Britain of that awful practice.
A couple of important facts I learned. One was that William Pitt was very much on his side in this, and eventually found a way for the anti-slavery group to prevail. The second, was that John Newton, Wilberforce’s great friend, was an ex-sailor and slave trader. He would do penance for his sin the rest of his life. Among his accomplishments was the penning of some 300 hymns, among them the famous “Amazing Grace.”
Watching the efforts of these men and women to rid their part of the world of this infamous practice really puts one’s own troubles in prospective. If you are unfamiliar with Ioan Gruffudd, you may remember him from Black Hawk Down or the mini series Horatio Hornblower which we very much enjoyed a couple of years ago. Albert Finney is also in the cast.
It’s a great movie, one worth watching. I’m sure you can find it at your neighborhood movie rental or Netflix.
If you would like to learn more about the extraordinary people represented in this film, please check out “Brits at their Best” a terrific site which has a marvelous essay on the entire fight to abolish slavery in the British Isles. It looks to be a terrific resource site on British history period, so do take a look.