"Amazing Grace," directed by Michael Apted, tells the story of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce, who, as a member of the British parliament, navigated the world of 18th-century backroom politics to end the slave trade in the British Empire. The film follows Wilberforce's career through his 20s and 30s, when he and his fellow humanitarians made the issue of slavery a talking point, not only in political circles, but also throughout the country. They waged the first modern political campaign, using petitions, boycotts, mass meetings, and even badges with slogans to take their message to the country at large.
Strongly influenced by John Newton--who composed the hymn "Amazing Grace"--Wilberforce steered the antislavery cause through the corridors of power and ultimately opened the way for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. His success came after decades of fighting, when parliament finally passed the first anti-slavery bill in 1807. The movie release coincides with the 200th anniversary of that milestone.