Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Liberty or Death": St. Johns Church Foundation film (DVD) on Patrick Henry's famous speech


The St. John’s Church Foundation in Richmond, Virginia in partnership with Idea Stations and PBS produce and distribute a one hour film in DVD format of “Liberty or Death” (2007) directed by Paut Tait Roberts. (The link for sales of the DVD is here.)

I have not been able to find this film on Netflix or on PBS’s website, but it can be ordered from the Church directly above. I went to Richmond today and visited the site. The visitor’s center is in an old brick school house on the corner of the property, on the east side of town, overlooking a spectacular ravine that drops down to the James River.

The film can be compared to the American Animation film reviewed here January 2009. It offers a broader view of the history leading to the speech, with small live action vignette and still drawings of the major historical events, leading to the meeting at St. John’s church in Richmond, which is reenacted by actors to make the last 30 minutes of the film.

The enactment is a bit like a stage play, and includes all the British and colonial mannerisms of speech typical of the period. Kevin McGranahan plays Patrick Henry, and Bob Murphy is Thomas Jefferson.

The earlier history is broader in scope than in the Animation film. It stresses how the colonies had been left alone until the British won the French and Indian Wars, and needed new taxes to support and man their empire. The colonists really started to object when the taxes affected the products that they use every day. Another interesting point, of a libertarian nature, is that the colonists defended themselves against the native population with militia companies. Military service apparently started out as private enterprise (okay, maybe it sounds a bit mercenary), a bit of a cry from the evolution of conscription and all the controversies around today’s military personnel policies.

St. John’s is a real chuch, and his been in operation since 1741. The assembly, to consider the need to go to war (where Henry says “there is no peace”) had been arranged in Richmond because at the time it was farther inland from Williamsburg (the capital) and out of reach of the British, more or less.

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