Friday, July 15, 2016

Home Movie

I was looking forward to seeing Free State of Jones for several reasons: I like a good historical drama; I have long been fascinated by the American Civil War, and the main character happens to be a distant relation (my great great grandfather's first cousin). Unfortunately, I was disappointed when I saw the film today.

To begin with, it was very graphic in terms of violence, which is not always a bad thing, especially when trying to convey the horrors of history. Still, the carnage in this movie did not add anything to my understanding of the events of that time period, and since the story was merely based on true events, the imagined atrocities seemed a bit gratuitous.

Secondly, there was no moral center to the movie-- everyone was either entirely virtuous or completely reprehensible, which made the plot flat. I happen to know from my own research of our family, that Newt Knight had many relatives living in the area at the time, many of them who held enslaved people.

Exploring such moral ambiguity may have made for a more dynamic story. For example it was not just some evil planter, but rather Knight's own grandfather, Jackie Knight, one of the largest slaveholders in the county, who enslaved Rachel, the African American woman who became Newt Knight's common-law wife.

To me, that fact alone introduces the complexity of race relations in the antebellum south, and makes for a much more interesting exploration of the time that could ultimately lead to a deeper understanding. A better movie might have addressed such concerns rather than glossing over them with stereotypes.

No comments:

Post a Comment