Brent Bozell's culture column this week centers on those Hollywood sore thumbs called Walden Media, who have made family-friendly and faith-friendly films. Brent told me it was a "V-8 idea," a slap-your-forehead business proposition to serve an underserved market of religious families with children. The new Walden project is the movie "Amazing Grace," as Brent explained:
It is a sad reality: Very few adults, and virtually no child can recognize the name William Wilberforce, the man Abraham Lincoln claimed was known to “every school boy” in America in 1858. Then there’s this: “Amazing Grace” is the most recognizable hymn in the land – but how many people can tell you its origin? To the rescue comes Walden again, with the movie “Amazing Grace,” which tells the true, and beautiful story of William Wilberforce, the brilliant British orator and parliamentarian who fought relentlessly to ban the slave trade in Great Britain and who ultimately succeeded, against all odds, decades before the United States fought a bloody civil war to do the same.
The movie title pays homage to John Newton, the English slavemaster-turned-Anglican clergyman who became Wilberforce’s minister and inspiration. Newton had participated in the transportation of more than 20,000 slaves and converted to Christianity after being saved from death on a sinking slave ship. He not only converted, but dedicated himself to the abolition of this practice, even in declining health and facing the loss of his sight. The movie is typically Walden -- a celebration of courage and the human spirit, leaving the viewer in stunned appreciation with the understanding, finally the understanding, of the words we’ve sung so many, many times. “I once was lost, but now am found/ Was blind but now I see.”
No good movie can compare to the great literature on which it is based. But it can inspire the soul and maybe, just maybe, inspire a child to crack a book and delve “beyond the walls of the world.” Treat your family to “Amazing Grace” on February 23rd.
Walden is not simply making the film (see the trailer at amazingracemovie.com), but creating a campaign to drive home the point that human slavery is still a nagging problem in the world today, a problem that movie-going audiences can still fight. One of Walden executive Mike Flaherty’s favorite lines in the film says "if you make the world better in one way, you make it better in every way." He said "people get so overwhelmed and intimidated by the enormous scope of global problems," but there are examples out there of people showing us "we can all contribute our time, talents, and treasures in some small way."