On February 23, 2007, the film Amazing Grace opened
worldwide in the USA.For people who don't know (and I'm assuming that there must be many of them here in The Bahamas, for reasons I'll tell you later), this film is, among other things, a look at William Wilberforce's abolitionist movement, the one that focussed Britons' eyes on the inhumanity of slavery, and which led the British Parliament first to abolish the transatlantic slave trade (whose bicentenary we celebrate this year) and, ultimately, to abolish slavery in the British Empire (1834), and to free the slaves (1834-1838).I have to say all this because nowhere is the film showing in The Bahamas.Now I have no idea why this is. One good reason, of course, is that commercial films in The Bahamas are controlled by a single conglomerate: Galleria Cinemas, which owns four commercial theatres in Nassau and Freeport, and which usually decides what the Bahamian public sees or doesn't see. So it is entirely possible that Galleria, looking at the costumes in the movie, thinking about the "dryness" of the subject, decided to pass on the film.This is something they do fairly regularly. As with many purveyors of mass entertainment in The Bahamas, the assumption is made that we are an undifferentiated mass of ignorami, and that no one will spend money on shows or performances that engages thought or reflection. (This attitude is as true of people producing live entertainment as it is of people importing films.) And so many films that I would like to see pass us by. It's one of the reasons that I don't go to the cinema; it's one of the reasons that our DVD collection is so vast. And it's one of the dangers -- a main and looming danger -- of having a monopoly governing commercial film distribution in the country. At least when RND Cinemas were still in operation, you had two sets of people making decisions, and sometimes those decisions would be different. Competition, what.There is, however, another, more sinister possibility. And it's this.The Bahamas Films and Plays Control Board viewed Amazing Grace and decided that it was not something that Bahamians ought to see.Now I don't have time to go into the implications of this. They are, I can assure you, rich with irony and fundamentally alarming. I'll come back to this blog to do this. But I'll leave you with these thoughts.
- Ours is a nation made primarily up of the descendants of slave-owners and their slaves.
- Ours is a nation whose political history is grounded uniquely and solely in the British Empire (yes, our social history is American. For the purposes of this discussion, that's irrelevant).
- Ours is a nation that never tires of referring to itself as "Christian" (even though some of us, who respect and worship the Almighty in relative quiet, would like to take one step back to avoid the lightning bolt when it falls upon us for gross hypocrisy and overweening hate).
- Amazing Grace is a movie about how the British Empire moved towards the abolition of the institution of slavery and the emacipation of the slaves.
- The movers and shakers behind the Abolition crusade were Christians, and it was Christian principles that they used to argue their case and it was in the name of Christ that the battle was won.
Draw your own conclusions.