Finally, of late white people have been ask to acknowledge and fight to end the many atrocities committed against black people just because of their skin colour. For centuries it has been occurring. It is only during the time of a pandemic that a glimmer of hope has surfaced that this might change. That blacks will not have to be scared to be stopped by a police officer, will not have to take special care when out after dark, will not have to worry about being shot just because they are wearing a hoodie, will have less or little of all that. We can hope that this has finally become the time that they will not be a repressed and subjugated people.
In the U.S. (not only there, but the spotlight has been shone on them for a long time in regards to race relations) the fight has been brought to the forefront of late. It is about time.
What can the arts do in times like these, you ask. Well, they can depict the human condition, tell different peoples’ stories and educate. A film like Mark Amin’s (first feature film) attempts all that. Based on the real life story of an escaped slave named Shields Green, it shows the horrors lived and the bravery shown in their fight for freedom of blacks in the United States.
Freedom. Something white people take for granted. Like it is our inherent right and who cares about anyone else. Blacks in the U.S. had to fight for it. That fight continues.
Though he was a slave Shields Green (Dayo Okeniyi – from television’s Shades of Blue) was better off than most. On his plantation his owner relied on him to pretty much run the place. Things change when the plantation is sold and there is a new owner. Things change a lot.
The new one takes over his duties. He is a cruel man. Shields seems to be able to handle the physical abuse he endures, but when the man lays a hand on his son Shields snaps. He loses his mind and in a rash action the two white men are killed. Shields knows what this means, so he hides his son with an elderly slave woman and he and his wife Sarah (Naturi Naughton – from television’s Power) flee. Unfortunately Sarah is killed in the attempt to get away. Shields is not on his own.
He will attempt to get up north to earn his freedom and that of his son’s. What he has done has made him rather famous, so they really want to recapture Shields before he gets north. He is being pursued by a bounty hunter (Ben Robson – from television’s Animal Kingdom) and many others.
Along the way he is going to meet people like bank robber Rufus Little (Keean Johnson – Alita: Battle Angel, Midway), Levi Coffin (Bruce Dern – Nebraska, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), a white man whose house was a stop on the Underground Railroad, Truesdale (Mykelti Williamson – Forrest Gump, Heat), a black slave who helps him get north, abolitionist John Brown (James Cromwell – Babe, The Green Mile), who advocated the armed overthrow of slavery, and even Frederick Douglass (Harry Lennix – from television’s Billions) himself.
Though this is an amazing story it proceeds many stories of slaves who did amazing things. At this point you have to separate yourself from the pack if you want some eyes on you. Unfortunately, this film brings nothing really new to the conversation.
Now though this is based on the life of an actual slave there has been plenty of historical liberties taken here. For instance all the stuff around the battle or raid on Harper’s Ferry. Too many to allow the viewer to stay in the story. Your disbelief interrupts things. I don’t expect a history lesson, but it is important to stay within the realm of believability.
The biggest problem here is that there are too many secondary characters. Not enough time for all of them to get adequate screen time. You don’t really get to know or care about any of them. What they are like or they accomplish.