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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).

3 Responses to “Director Michael Apted & Producer Ken Wales to Attend Heartland Film Festival”

  1. on 19 Oct 2006 at 10:47 pm Danny Miller

    I attended the U.S premiere of “Amazing Grace” tonight at the Heartland Film Festival with my friend and associate Martin Bennett. I enjoyed the film and the Heartland staff sponsored a great event including dinner and follow-up Q&A session with Director:Michael Apted, Producer:Ken Wales & Walden Media CEO:Cary Granat afterwards.

    I hope the movie will find a widespread audience when it is released in February, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. I am not sure that the general public will consider it a “must see” though because the central character, William Wilberforce, is an obscure British historical figure and his life, while a lesson in political courage and perserverance, was not all that exciting. He was a politician not a revolutionary.

    Mr. Apted, however, did a fabulous job with what is really not a particularly compelling story in and of itself.

    Like all movies I have seen, it has its moments of weakness, but the filmakers did what the Billionaire financier, Phil Anshutz, apparently wanted to have done: a high quality film the brings the life, lessons, and passion of Wilberforce into the 21st century. He felt like this story needed to be told in film and it has now been accomplished. I am personally glad that there are men like Anschutz and companies like Walden Media that are willing to make these kinds of films without the typical trappings and motivations of Hollywood.

    John Newton, the author of the song “Amazing Grace” and a former slave trader, had limited screen-time but a powerful impact in the film. Albert Finney’s portrayal was a real highlight and most memorable.

    It is Newton’s story that needs to be told next. While we only see an aged Newton in this film, his life story stands in stark contrast to Wilberforce. Newton said of himself, “I know of no man’s story more extraordinary than my own”. Newton’s life has all the ingredients audiences want: adventure, violence, contrast, redemption, and one of the greatest love stories imaginable. One researcher into the life of Newton has documented 25 occassions in which he narrowly escaped death. His story depicts slavery in graphic terms and includes a period in which Newton himself was a slave on a slave ship alongside black slaves.

    I mentioned my friend, Martin Bennett, because he has invested 6 years of his life into researching the life of John Newton for the purpose of a screen play, which he has now completed.

    I was pleased that “Amazing Grace” told the story of Wilberforce and did nothing to undermine the “market” for a movie on John Newton. To the contrary, it left me and many others in the audience with a longing to know more about the life of John Newton. The song makes much more sense when you know Newton’s story.

    I can only hope that a future Newton project will attract the kind of talent and support that I witnessed tonight. Congratulations to Ken Wales in particular who has dedicated himself to this project for many years.

  2. on 25 Feb 2007 at 5:09 pm Wayne Owen

    I was throughly impressed with this movie. The story of the struggle with Wilberforce religious values was well done. I appreciated the move and highly recommend it.

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