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Final gala has epic scope

September 17th, 2006 by Paul Martin

Amazing Grace, directed by the veteran Michael Apted, is an English film that was commissioned for an occasion: the 200th anniversary of Britain’s decision to make slavery illegal.

This is not the kind of movie that will be considered cutting edge, daring, innovative or unprecedented by festival-goers on the prowl for something completely different. There’s nothing hip about it.

Instead, it’s a very old-fashioned period costume picture infused with the kind of craftsmanship that brings to mind the work of David Lean and Carol Reed.

And not incidentally, it provides an effective showcase and juicy roles for several of Britain’s most marvellous actors ? including such brilliant veterans as Michael Gambon and Albert Finney, not to mention Toby Jones, who also happens to be starring as Truman Capote in Infamous.

Ioann Gruffudd inhabits the role of anti-slavery pioneer William Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who lost his fight to abolish slavery in 1789. And just to make the set-up completely conventional, there’s a love story built in, with Romola Garai playing a headstrong woman who shares the hero’s political convictions.

After decades of political infighting and a lot of depressing years, Wilberforce’s determination paid off when Parliament finally passed an anti-slavery bill in 1807.

[Read the rest at Toronto Star]