Whether it’s any good or not, I can tell you already that the film Amazing Grace will likely win honors from many Christian film critics merely because of its subject.

Michael Apted, director of the “Up” series (7 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up, etc…), has directed the film, which focuses on the life of the great abolitionist and Christian, William Wilberforce. And it has just won a U.S. distribution deal, thanks to Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions. The film will screen for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it will open in America on February 23, which just so happens to be the the 200th anniversary of the British parliamentary vote to abolish slavery.

Amazing Grace stars Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as William Wilberforce, and Albert Finney as the Rev. John Newton. It also stars one of my favorite young actresses… Romola Garai. And the supporting cast includes Rufus Sewell, , Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, and somebody named Benedict Cumberbatch. (Wasn’t that the real name of the Penguin in Batman Returns? Oh, wait, no, that was Oswald Cobblepot. My bad.)

I do sincerely hope that Amazing Grace is an excellent piece of work. The February release date has me concerned. Does that mean that the studio doesn’t view it as potential Oscar material? It has a great deal of formidable talent attached to it, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic. Let’s just hope they match the important and inpsiring story with important and inspiring filmmaking excellence. Because, contrary to what a lot of folks who email me insist, message isn’t everything. Excellence really does matter… and not just to us, but to God.

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