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The World Premiere Of Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace Closes Festival

August 26th, 2006 by Paul Martin

The 31st Toronto International Film Festival closes with the world premiere Gala Presentation of Michael Apted’s AMAZING GRACE. Tremendously appealing to both heart and mind, AMAZING GRACE tells the story of William Wilberforce, a British Parliamentarian who led abolitionists in their crusade to end the slave trade in late 18th century England. The film stars Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rufus Sewell, Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds, Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, and Albert Finney. Closing Night Film & Party tickets are now available. For more information or to purchase tickets call 416-968-FILM or visit bell.ca/filmfest.

Ioan Gruffudd (BLACK HAWK DOWN) takes the powerful lead as Wilberforce, a firebrand politician known for his charm, wit and zeal. Undaunted by the boys’ club atmosphere amongst his colleagues, he is recognized early in his career as a man of great integrity and courage. A life-altering meeting with ex-slave Olaudauh Equiano (the feature debut of international music star Youssou N’Dour) inspires Wilberforce to confront the dehumanizing slave trade, an economic force so vital to the Establishment that it forces him into a fierce conflict with the most powerful people in the nation.

His friend – and future British Prime Minister – William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch, also seen in the Festival film STARTER FOR TEN) is an ideal foil. Pitt hews to the straight and narrow, while Wilberforce storms through the doors, hollering for reform. The pair harbour great hope for their country, but change is slow to arrive. Not to be defeated, Wilberforce, aided by a diverse coalition of allies, including former slave trader John Newton (Albert Finney, ERIN BROCKOVICH), passionate abolitionist Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell, THE ILLUSIONIST), and his spirited wife and political compatriot Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai, VANITY FAIR), Wilberforce begins a movement that would ultimately change history.

Acclaimed filmmaker Michael Apted has crafted a brilliant account of his perseverance, showing how an exhausted Wilberforce musters the strength for the final, all-important effort against injustice. The film is lush with period detail and blessed with tremendous performances – including the matchless Finney as Newton, a former slave trader-turned-penitent man of the cloth, whose desperate guilt steels Wilberforce’s resolve in moments of doubt.

A powerful, stirring film, AMAZING GRACE is directed by Michael Apted and written by Steven Knight. The film is executive produced by Jeanney Kim and produced by Terrence Malick, Edward Pressman, Patricia Heaton, David Hunt, and Ken Wales. AMAZING GRACE is a presentation of Bristol Bay Productions.

The Closing Night Film is made possible through the generous sponsorship of National Bank Financial.

[2006 Toronto Film Festival]