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An Interview with “Amazing Grace” Director Michael Apted
by Chris Monroe of ChristianAnswers.net

For Apted personally, I asked him how he was affected by working on this project. He said:

I was very impressed with it all. I truly thought it delivered the things I was really looking for. I really did think it was heroic. I thought his [Wilberforce] commitment to it [the abolition of the slave trade] – and I take that he got a tremendous amount of that from his faith, from his religion – it gave him enormous strength and inner strength to survive what was a real buffeting. And also his expertise as a politician I liked…

Instead of eliminating the “religious” or Christian aspect of Wilberforce’s life, Apted fully acknowledges it in the film. But Apted did not just shoot the script he was given.

Concerning the script, I asked Apted if there were any elements he felt he needed to take out or emphasize, particularly with the subject matter of politics and Christianity. He says:

…I felt that the script I had was too imbalanced away from politics. It just seemed such a dynamic event – the political event – which dramatized his religious beliefs so well, so exquisitely, in fact, that he didn’t have to preach or sermonize. It was all through action. And it wasn’t even doing less of it – it was more rebalancing it.

Read the full interview at Christiananswers.net

Other Amazing Grace interviews with Michael Apted are available over at ComingSoon.net, Christianitytoday.com

Amazing Grace Official Site

The official website for Amazing Grace has just been launched, visit AmazingGraceMovie.com for movie clips, stills, cast and crew information, production notes and a lot more.

Director Michael Apted and film producer Ken Wales will help kick off the 15th annual Heartland Film Festival later this month on October 19. Heartland President and CEO Jeffrey L. Sparks says “We are both thrilled and honored to have Michael and Ken join us as we celebrate Heartland’s 15th anniversary and the U.S. premiere of Amazing Grace”.

Apted and Wales also will participate in a question and answer session following the 7:30 p.m. film screening. Sharon Swart, special editor for Variety, will moderate the session.

Limited tickets are available for the Opening Night event by visiting HeartlandFilmFestival.org or calling toll-free 1-866-HFF-1010.

Speaking of Michael Apted, the latest intallment in his 7 Up series, 49 Up, had it’s US premiere earlier this week at the New York Film Festival and is now showing in selected theatres (limited release).

Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

See the MorningChris Tomlin’s new CD “See The Morning” is released today. Closing out his album is the song “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”, a track that Chris recorded after being approached by Walden Media to rework the hymn for the upcoming feature film.

See an interview with Chris Tomlin where talks about how he came to be involved in recording this song, and view a video clip where he performs his version of Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).

A preview of the movie by Maria Antonietta Perna, currently at A World to Win:

Michael Apted’s film fully succeeds in conveying the emotional roller-coaster felt by the abolitionists during the ups and downs of the various stages of their fight, especially the tensions felt by Wilberforce himself as he is torn between faith and politics, between reformism and revolutionary fervour, and between defeatism and perseverance. The historical reconstruction of 18th century England reveals an accurate eye for detail and the exchanges among MPs are delightfully witty and enjoyable. [READ FULL REVIEW]

Variety reviews Amazing Grace

From the pages of Variety magazine, critic Eddie Cockrell has a favorable review of Amazing Grace:

Crisply told and sincerely thesped, Amazing Grace is a workmanlike costumer that distills Blighty’s long battle for the abolition of slavery and the personalities behind landmark antislavery legislation into a tidy story of conscience and perseverance. The closing night preem at the Toronto fest, pic will go out Stateside Feb., 23, 2007, to mark the bicentennial of the passage of a key bill in the struggle.

Pic reflects the no-nonsense storytelling skills of prolific helmer Michael Apted, whose career-long mix of feature and docu work holds him in good stead once more. Cast is uniformly fine, with Gruffudd setting the pace via a sincere and well-modulated perf and Hinds appropriately dastardly as the sneering Tarlton. [READ FULL REVIEW]

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

The 31st Toronto International Film Festival closes with the world premiere gala Presentation of Michael Apted’s Amazing Grace tonight.

Here are some photos taken at the screening, pictured is screenwriter Steven Knight, actor Toby Jones (portrays Duke of Clarence), actress Romola Garai (portrays Barbara Spooner), and director Michael Apted.

Steven Knight Romola Garai and Toby Jones Toby Jones and Michael Apted Romola Garai

Link: Toronto International Film Festival: Amazing Grace screening

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter on Amazing Grace:

The dullness of virtue infuses this historical story of the British MP who spent his life fighting the appalling institution of slavery in the British Empire. This is about as safe a historical/political topic as a filmmaker can tackle, where right and wrong are as clear as day. The only cause for wonder for a modern-day viewer is the speciousness and cynicism of the arguments made in favor of the institution in those days.

One does enjoy watching British actors waltz gracefully through such period pieces. So many previous stage and screen roles have prepared them for such projects that wigs, costumes and attitudes fit like well-worn gloves. So such veterans as Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Ciaran Hinds can be wonderfully hammy yet still not overshadow young actors in the duller, more earnest roles, such as Welshman Ioan Gruffudd as the hero, William Wilberforce and Benedict Cumberbatch as William Pitt, the youngest British prime minister ever. [READ FULL REVIEW]

Reuters is syndicating the review with the headline “Slave drama “Amazing Grace” honorable, but dull”. The critic is predicting that this film will do better on cable and DVD. Read the full review of the movie here.

Anyone out there who’s had a chance to see the movie care to share their thoughts on the film? It’s screening later this week at the 31st Toronto International Film Festival, and has already screened earlier this month at the Politics and Spirituality: Outer Witness, Inner Faith conference in Pasadena.

The 2006 Heartland Film Festival will open with the U.S. premiere of Michael Apted’s powerful “Amazing Grace”.

Heartland Film Festival will kick off its 2006 Festival with the U.S. premiere of Samuel Goldwyn Films/Roadside Attractions’ and Bristol Bay Productions’ Amazing Grace at the IMAX Theater. Get a glimpse of this film before it hits theaters this February. After the evening screening, there will be a reception and question and answer session with the filmmakers at the Eiteljorg Museum.

“Heartland is very excited to showcase the U.S. premiere of ‘Amazing Grace’ as our Opening Night Event,” said Jeffrey L. Sparks, president of the Heartland Film Festival. “This powerful and important story about William Wilberforce is sure to impact audiences wherever it plays, and we’re honored to be its first U.S. venue.

DETAILS: Heartland Film Festival - Amazing Grace screening

Michael Apted’s slave-trade drama “Amazing Grace” has lined up a U.S. distribution deal

Independent distributors Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions said they would release the film on February 23, the 200th anniversary of the British parliament’s vote to abolish the slave trade.

The film, which is still being completed, stars Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce, who led the British Empire to end slavery at the turn of the 19th century with the help of slave trader-turned-abolitionist Rev. John Newton (Albert Finney) and his wife (Romola Garai).

The cast also includes Rufus Sewell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds and Michael Gambon.

The companies are planning to target the traditional art house crowd, human rights groups and faith-based audiences.

“Wilberforce is a hero to many Christians because he combined political actions and his belief in God,” said Howard Cohen, Roadside co-president.

The film was produced by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz’s Bristol Bay Prods., which aims to make uplifting family-friendly fare. It scored a hit with “Ray.”

Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside have partnered on such films as the documentary “Super Size Me” and the upcoming “Lassie,” which opens September 1. The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 7 through September 16.

Source: Reuters/Hollywood Reporter