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Monday, April 11, 2005
SELLING WILBERFORCE

Variety reports that Walden Media has brought in DGA President Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough) to direct the long-in-development film Amazing Grace, based on the life of British anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was an 18th Century member of Parliament who is attributed with ending slavery and the slave trade in the British empire.

Variety also notes that the film is being styled as a "political thriler." Can I just say "Oh, good grief"? The story is as much political thriller as is the story of the American abolition movement. That is, IT ISN'T! It's a drama with spiritual overtones. And it's too bad that dramas are the least commercial genres these days. But well.... Besides feeling icky, it probably won't work to tell the story what it should be instead of letting the story be what it is. It would be kind of like...

Starving Max - Baz Luhrman's lush musical farce about the last days in Auswitcz of Maximilian Kolbe; or else,

Immaculate? - A pulsing, mind-bending tribute to film-noir, set amidst the seemy mystery of the conception of Christ; or, how about,

The Council Gang - A rip-snorting irreverent buddy comedy about two unlikely cardinals charged with writing the document on liturgy at Vatican II;

[pause for rolling of eyeballs]

Variety also notes that the Wilberforce movie will be written by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things). This is even more interesting, because the first script for this movie was written by Colin Welland, who also wrote Chariots of Fire. Hmmmm.... I don't know much about Steven Knight, but Chariots is one of the key films in what could be considered the Christian cinematic canon. And Chariots seems like it would be much closer in tone to the Wilberforce story.

Maybe Welland's draft had problems, I haven't seen it...but, here's the thing. The audience for whom Wilberforce is a hero are Christians. They are the people who like Chariots of Fire, and who would have to be dragged into any theater to see a movie called Dirty Pretty Things (Which I haven't seen, but I heard was weird and clever and edgy).

I root for Walden, as the "Christian" studio. But I am scratching my head. This seems worthy of the secular studios.