Due for release in May 2016, The Free State of Jones stars Matthew McConaughey and tells the amazing true story of Newton Knight, a Southern Unionist from Jones County Mississippi, who deserted from the Confederate army and then fought against them as the leader of The Knight Company, a band of fellow deserters and freed slaves.
Primarily it has to be noted that Matthew McConaughey’s portrayal of Newton Knight will add a lot of weight to this film and his striking performances in the likes of True Detective, Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club have set him in good stead to boost the box-office of The Free State of Jones, as well as hopefully delivering a fantastic performance. McConaughey will play his part under the astute direction of Gary Ross, who also wrote the film. His credentials were displayed vividly by 2012’s The Hunger Games and in combination with McConaughey, he’s likely to make this film a huge success, both financially and artistically.
The Free State of Jones will be exploring Knight’s life in a wholly unique and very relevant way…
The real history surrounding Knight is hotly debated and the question of whether Knight was taking a stand against slavery and the Confederacy, or simply living the life of an outlaw, is a contentious one. However it does look likely that Knight will be portrayed as a heroic anti-slavery figure. 1948’s Tap Roots was also loosely based on his story but ignored the inter-racial nature of the story, instead focusing the story on class issues, so The Free State of Jones will be exploring Knight’s life in a wholly unique and very relevant way.
At a time when America has been reminded of the dangers of racism and xenophobia by Ferguson and more recently, arguably by Donald Trump, this film could be important. While its historical setting means The Free State of Jones is not a film making direct political points, parallels or arguments, it does look like a film ready to provide an on-screen role model of a man standing up for equality, presented through the lens of a hugely important and immensely interesting period of historical conflict.
The initial signals are that The Free State of Jones will be a fantastic historical drama…
While the film’s history may or may not be spot on, the initial signals are that The Free State of Jones will be a fantastic historical drama. McConaughey and Ross making up the talented backbone of the film give it immense potential and the American Civil War provides ample opportunity for remarkable and emotive cinematic moments, especially given the film’s basis in what seems to be the amazing history of a remarkable individual.
Stay tuned to Maverick Film for more on The Free State of Jones, as it arises.
By George Storr