AMAZING GRACE: EVILS OF COLONIALISM ON CELLULOID

By NBF News
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Jeta Amata's flick, The Amazing Grace was produced in 2008, precisely 260 years after the historic invasion of the port of Calabar, Cross River State in 1748 by European slave masters. It is the incidence that served as the resource material for 'Amazing Grace', which makes it a true-life story.

The main story recalled through the film is the invasion of port of Calabar in 1748 by slaves masters led by John Newton, captain of the ship and Frank Oliver, his second in command. Newton's team, (as advised by Oliver who had been on ground three years before his boss), raids Calabar villages, burns their huts, shoots farmers and others including children. This is done to cow and make them submit for capture. Those who survived the carnage are immediately rounded up, chained and dragged to the dungeon, a cage where the captured are kept till the ship arrive from England for them.

While they await the ship, Frank Oliver has a way of brutalizing the Africans: He sends his men (many of whom are blacks too, already bought over with a token) to bring beautiful Calabar ladies for him. He instructs that they tie the victim on a table face down. In this way, he rapes them. Newton, his boss abhors this act. However, the ship eventually arrives and the captured are dragged to it en route to England for slavery.

As the blacks prayed to their god, Abasi, some asking for safety, others asking for death. Abasi answers, according to the narrator, and sends thunder and storm to disrupt their journey. The ship is struck by the storm, and it sinks deep into water. Everyone scrambles for safety. Newton instructs Oliver to release some of the 'slaves' but he refuses. Newton does this himself. Embittered, some of his men throw him into the sea. He almost gets drowned, as he cannot swim, Etim, a lion-hearted native and one of the captured dives into the waters and saves him. This act of love touches Newton and reforms him. Thus, his attitude to the slaves changes as he becomes more humane with them.

However, he needs more slaves, as some have been lost to the storm. This time, he devises a peaceful though, trickish means. He deceives Etim and Ansa, his beautiful cousin by telling them that he wants Etim to convince his people to follow him to help in their farms in England, and that they will be adequately rewarded.

Convinced that he is sincere, Etim convinces the Calabar people from his mother's clan and wins their heart and many agree to follow him to the Whiteman's land.

However, his love for Ansa makes Newton to own up to her in their privacy. He tells her the truth that a life of slavery awaits her people but assures that she and her uncle Etim, are free. It then dawns on Ansa that she has been betrayed again, this time by another man from another race. She snatches Newton's pistol and shoots herself.

Etim runs to the scene on hearing a gunshot, he sees Newton caressing the lifeless body of Ansa, mistaking him for the killer, he makes attempts to avenge Ansa but Oliver is smarter, he pulls the trigger of his gun and Etim goes down with a thud. Thus, Etim and Ansa fall as heroes of a struggle for freedom in the film.

It is pertinent to ask: Why did the whites enslave the blacks then? To this question can be found a legion of answers but the root cause is given by the narrator, Maria Davids or Elkanemi (Joke Silva) when she wished that there would be a day the colour of the blacks will stop being a curse for the whites.

The movie condemns slave trade, racism, colonialism and the oppression of the black by the whites. It succinctly depicts an ironical situation where the whites that profess to be Christians decide to oppress human beings like them.