My regular reader will know that since watching a great TV series on Netflix, not actually about the civil war, but that included Ulysses S Grant as a character, my chap Phil has gone down the rabbit hole of finding out properly about the civil war. Starting with a great 3 part documentary series on Sky about the general (called succinctly, Grant) which he said was top notch, we then got a list of films and documentaries from Pete over at Beetleypete blog and started with Ken Burns excellent documentary ‘The Civil War’ whilst we waited for blurays to arrive. In the meantime we found a couple on Netflix/Prime, and the first one was Ride With The Devil which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago HERE and now the others have arrived so we’re up and running.
Free State of Jones
This 2016 movie stars Matthew McConaughey as Newt Wright, a Confederate soldier who desserts after surviving the Battle of Corinth in 1862, when he finds out men who own 20 slaves or more are exempt from duties and can go home. It was directed and written by Gary Ross who spent a good few years researching the war, and directed the first Hunger Games to help finance it. Newt Wright becomes leader of a company of deserters and runaway slaves in Jones County, Mississippi, and the movie tells not only how that comes about, but also covers part of what’s known as the Restoration, post-war, and the prosecution of Newt’s great grandson in 1948 when it was a criminal offence to look white but have black heritage, and marry a white person.
Not an easy watch by any stretch (which it shouldn’t be) as it portrays the abject conditions and cruelty that slaves and even freed slaves were subjected to, the carnage of warfare, and the inhumanity of segregation and slavery. It didn’t do well at the box office, released on the same day as the intellectually superior Independence Day-Resurgance, and The Shallows, another weighty movie starring A Bikini with Blake Lively in it. It also got accused of being a ‘white-saviour’ movie, but in this case I think that’s unfair, but I’m probably not the best judge of that being a white person. In anycase, no-one is really saved, so there is that!
Ross directs his movie with love, the attention to detail is astounding. McConaughey does a masterful job as Newt, and excellent acting from Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Rachel, Newts second wife and an ex slave whomst she imbues with stoic dignity and grace, and Mahershala Ali as Moses Washington, a runaway slave who becomes a political activist after the war, a solid, emotional performance. It opened our eyes to a part of the war (so far) not covered in the Ken Burns documentary, to show that not all Southern folks were against the union, and not all agreed with segregation or slavery.
Extra eye-opening reading well worth doing if you are interested in the Civil War https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-free-state-jones-180958111/
Fraggle Rating:- top notch.