Why Civil War Movies Are Having a Moment Right Now


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The American Civil War and its aftermath have proven an virtually inexhaustible supply of fabric for movie-makers over the years. From Robert F. Maxwell’s Gettysburg (1993) and Anthony Minghella’s epic tragedy Cold Mountain (2003) to the unfairly-maligned Matthew McConaughey vehicle Free State of Jones (2016), the fateful conflict between the Union and the Confederacy has found favor with numerous screenwriters and directors.

Now Apple is making another contribution to the style with the Will Smith movie Emancipation. It tells the true story of the slave known to historical past only as Peter (his title was sometimes additionally rendered as Gordon), whose picture, bearing the scars of multiple whippings by plantation overseers, did a lot to galvanize well-liked opinion in the North in opposition to slavery. Emancipation is gearing up for a restricted release earlier next month. And the Apple Original is simply one of a quantity of movies set in the interval to seem lately. So why is the style having a second just now? Here are a quantity of things to contemplate.


Untold Stories That Resonate With Modern Audiences

First Look at Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in Upcoming Biopic Focus Features

Part of the attraction for filmmakers is that so many Civil War tales are nonetheless to be informed. A working example is Harriet (2019), Kasi Lemmons’ award-winning film about the former slave and Union spy Harriet Tubman. As she was born into slavery, rescued dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad, and went on to lead a Union detachment through Confederate territory on a daring raid to free hundreds of slaves, Tubman’s life was exceptional. It is performed out on the massive screen with a stellar efficiency by British actor Cynthia Erivo, bringing her an Academy Award nomination.

Related: Emancipation Director Talks Releasing the Will Smith Movie Following the Slap Heard Round The World

Also starring Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night In Miami…, Needle in a Timestack), Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures, Moonlight), and Clarke Peters (John Wick, Da 5 Bloods), Harriet is a classy and thought of portrayal of a person whose experience as an African American lady in mid-century America was without delay pioneering and but completely typical. Lauded within the press for her bravery and devotion to the Union trigger, Tubman was discriminated towards after the struggle’s conclusion. She struggled to safe her pension, and her fortunes fluctuated in the ensuing decades earlier than her dying in 1913. Her unshakable belief within the virtues of equality lends Harriet a novel and highly effective vision that continues to resonate with trendy audiences.

Some New Angles on Civil War Stories

kiersey clemons antebellum lionsgate Lionsgate Films

It’s also true that some storytellers are taking Civil War themes and operating with them, offering new views on older tropes. Such experiments vary in high quality, such as this yr’s Alice, a melange of Blaxploitation esthetics, and an anti-slavery narrative a few slave who finds herself in the yr 1973. It obtained decidedly blended reviews for its tonal peculiarities despite a knockout performance by Emmy Award winner Keke Palmer in the lead role.

Related: Antebellum Star Gabourey Sidibe Says Oscars Nomination Did Her No Favors in Hollywood

A extra profitable — although much more brutal — outing is Antebellum, a 2020 thriller starring Janelle Monáe as Veronica, a 21st-century woman who, apparently experiencing a nightmare, finds herself on a nineteenth-century slave plantation. While not all the time reaching the synthesis of a critique of slavery and a psychological thriller, Monáe is never lower than compelling, as is Academy Award winner Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, Come As You Are) and Eric Lange (Narcos, The Man In The High Castle) as her tormentor.

Civil War Stories Seem More Relevant Than Ever

Emancipation AppleTV+

Only those who have spent the final few years living under rocks might fail to spot the broader canvas right now’s filmmakers paint on when they mine the Civil War for supply material. The polarized politics that has swept a lot of the world, together with the US, has put questions of racial equality and the lingering discontents of antebellum America on the heart of media discourse. It’s solely pure that most of the tales and inflection points that had been instrumental in shaping attitudes in course of problems with race and slavery over which the Civil War finally got here to be fought are revisited by right now’s filmmakers.

Emancipation is such a narrative. Antoine Fuqua’s movie relates the battle of Peter to escape to the Union strains and join Lincoln’s army, defying swamps, the elements, and the malicious attentions of the overseer (Ben Foster) sent to retrieve him. With Charmaine Bingwa (Black Box, The Good Fight) and Mustafa Shakir (The Deuce, Cowboy Bebop) in supporting roles and glorious production values, Emancipation provides an alternative perspective on the experience of the African American Union soldier. For instance, Edward Zwick’s Glory (1989) largely restricted itself to depictions of free men recruited in the northern states. Its solemn material ensures that important response to Smith’s first movie after his altercation with Chris Rock at the Oscars will stay firmly centered on the occasions on screen.


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