3 1/2 Stars
THE one most important thing I have come to learn about history is from that famous quote: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”.
And this one simple quote is one reason I happen to respect the type of movie that shines a bright light on the sins of our past, such as this soulfully accomplished lesson in the latest civil war film Free State of Jones.
Of course here, in this reasonably new country of Australia, we don’t have a diabolical civil war to hang our heads in shame about, but we do have some historical racial atrocities of our own that our young people should be made aware of.
And so, films such as this have a very important place in the modern world.
Starring Matthew McConaughey as Newton Knight, in a true tale of an army medic who desserts the war after seeing so much injustice and bloodshed.
He returns home with the body of a very young family member knowing full well he might be executed for his crime.
What he comes home to is a land empty of good men, and populated by scared women who are being taxed to death by the war, desperate and dying themselves.
He makes the decision to fight for everyone, and brings them all together to battle to the death for what he believes is right and just.
There are some who say this film is just another white-man hero saga, but I can’t disagree more
This heart wrenching tale puts both coloured and poor white people on the same level, with a government hell bent on sucking everyone who isn’t a rich cotton farmer dry, to further the wealthy and powerful’s beliefs that slaves are a God-given right.
Scattered throughout the film is a flash forward to Newton’s grandson, the progeny of the relationship Newton made when he fell in love with a black woman who helped him fight for freedom for his people and his ideologies.
This alone describes a country that continued to separate and segregate people of colour long after the war was over, where freed-men were supposed to have same rights, and the right to vote after the bloody battles were apparently over.
In my quiet inner thoughts as the credits rolled, I could only ponder the fact that we may have come so far, but we have still so much further to go.
With our own modern world so separated, so scared, so ready to blame everyone else, colour or creed alike, we really haven’t changed that much.
The Free State of Jones is a harsh and haunting reminder that people are people; we are all the same and we are all fighting for something.
And if we don’t try to learn from our past mistakes, we are destined to experience them all over again.
This film should be shown in schools everywhere; its lessons are just that profoundly powerful.