Written and directed by Murray Watts – Going for a walk, … what could be simpler, what could be more commonplace, what could be more dangerous…walking until he came to the end of himself and the beginning of a new life… Elijah walking into the wilderness hoping to die, but he’s driven onwards until he finds himself inside a cave; he hears a voice… Augustine . walking in a garden in Milan hearing a child’s voice saying “Pick up and read.”
His whole life, all his successful, troubled, confused life changed by a walk in a garden. Walks that change lives. Walks that change the world. Walking: an innocent yet dangerous pastime, a high risk occupation. So begins The Walk – a 27 minute dramatization from the life of William Wilberforce and his history changing meeting with John Newton in the year 1785. The film marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the British Parliament – the law was passed on March 25,1807. Written and directed by Murray Watts and produced by Norman Stone, two seasoned British filmmakers, the work has some Canadian connection.
Jeanine Noyes (voice) and Matt Baetz (bass guitar) two Canadian musicians are included in the film when we hear at the end a moving rendition of Amazing Grace sung by Jeanine. Monique Sliedrecht a Canadian visual artist now living in Scotland and working with Murray Watts at Freswick returned to Canada in late February to visit family. Monique had in hand the newly released DVD and asked if Imago might arrange a showing of the film with about a 10 day window we were able to arrange a showing on Thursday March 8th – attended by 120 or so interested viewers. Jeanine and Matt performed accompanied by Fergus Marsh and Ottawa MP John McKay spoke to the gathering about the links between faith and politics. Monique was able to tell us something about the making of the film and plans for its distribution.
It is a different sort of film from the full length feature Amazing Grace released this month in Canada. But it is an engaging story about poignant moment in the life of Wm Wilberforce. Through the film we catch a glimpse into what he was thinking and feeling at the time and what moved him to take up the cause of abolition. But it is about more than a moment in history – as it raised again the question of what we will do to address the abiding presence of slavery in our contemporary world.
The film is not just a reminder of things past but a call to respond to the present. It is an excellent piece for a large or small gathering and serves to provoke our thinking about matters of vital importance.