Free State of Jones
DVD Blurb by Shale
September 24, 2016
I did not see this movie in theater when it opened on June 24th, (just 12 days after Loving Day) opting for the more entertaining and less worthy Independence Day Resurgence. In fact this movie did quite poorly in the Box Office, maybe why the DVD came out just three months later. So, I picked it up this week and watched it coincidentally on the opening day of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., of which Brenda and I were Charter Members. And, judging by the hateful, racist comments on the NMAAHC facebook page I think every ignorant, stars & bars waving redneck in Dixie should see this movie.
This movie is a dramatization of actual events during and after the civil war in the heart of Mississippi one of the more conservative areas of the state and by all credible accounts has been well-researched and true to the actual events. (I lived in Smith County briefly in the late '60s & early '70s)
It starts on a battlefield with quite a bloody scene of grey clad soldiers marching into blue clad soldier musket and cannon fire. Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) is a battlefield medic hauling wounded to the sawbones. With so many deaths all around he is disillusioned by the whole war and when he encounters a kid from home who was conscripted and forced into battle for which he is unprepared he sees the evil of the confederacy. Also, there is news that rich landowners can get exempt from the battlefield for every 20 slaves they own. A lot of poor farmers start realizing that this is a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight." (This reality plays well to all wars up to the present).
Newt Helping Kid
Newt, like so many other disillusioned farmer/soldiers deserts and goes back home. Deserters, when caught are hanged as an example and Newt ends up hiding out in the swamp with runaway slaves, where he sees his plight as theirs, being exploited by the rich landowners for profit. This is also where he gets close to Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is a self-taught slave who helps the runaways in the swamp.
Newt & Rachel
Newt, organizes the deserters and former slaves and takes on the local Confederate soldiers who are "taxing" poor ppl, taking all their food for the cause, leaving them to starve. He has success with this guerrilla warfare in Jones and surrounding counties until the end of the war.
The story also continues thru the post-war terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan and voter suppression, which continued into my lifetime in the South (and to some degree continues to this day).
Newt had children with Rachel in their common law marriage. He could not legally marry a black woman in Mississippi or the rest of the South, so he deeded her some land and the locals apparently were too fearful of him to attack him. BTW for those young ppl who missed it in American History (or as is often the case, it was not taught) blacks & whites could not marry in the South until the Loving decision in 1967 - again in my lifetime. This was touched upon in the movie as well.
This movie was rated R for gory wartime violence and postwar brutality, so it will not be playing in high school history classes for anyone under 17. Pity.