In a year of films glorifying Abraham Lincoln (see Spielberg’s Lincoln), portraying our Southern ancestors as blood-sucking vampires in need of eradication (see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and idolising righteous Black slaves who slaughter evil Southerners by the handfuls (see Django Unchained) it appears that Hollywood is more openly anti-Southern than ever. Yet, this year might not be a total loss from a Southern point of view. Ron Maxwell‘s forthcoming film Copperhead shows promise. Etan Vlessing has an article about it for The Hollywood Reporter:
Copperhead, Ron Maxwell’s latest film now shooting in Atlantic Canada, is ostensibly about families on the homefront split by the bloodshed of the American Civil War [sic].
But as much as the director of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals is keeping his focus on events in 1862 and telling a compelling story, Maxwell insists his latest Civil War [sic] costume drama will inevitably be seen by cinema-goers as an echo of America’s reaction to current events in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I keep it (Copperhead) with as much integrity as I can in 1862, but people will watch this film and leave the theatre and say, ‘Wow, it was like a 150 years ago, and it’s like now,’” the director said from King’s Landing, New Brunswick, where he’s shooting the Jason Patric and Angus MacFadyen-starrer set in 19th century upstate New York.
“We’re living through similar times. There’s these great causes articulated — we’re liberating and we’re freeing people, we’re changing the world, we’re defending liberty – and it’s the same rhetoric with the same consequences,” Maxwell insisted about the cost of war, then and now.
Unlike his earlier Civil War-era [sic] epics set on bloody battle fields, Copperhead has a central focus on families back on the home front, burying their dead and feuding amid widespread fear and political panic.
“People die, and it’s mostly young people, it’s mostly the people who have no say in the politics, who have no voice in it and who bravely, and with great courage and patriotism, put themselves in harm’s way and pay the price,” Maxwell added.
Copperhead, based on the 19th-century novel of the same name by Harold Frederic, and adapted by Bill Kaufman, examines the price of dissent amid the hysteria of war, as a family is ripped apart by Civil War-era events.
It appears that Mr Maxwell has an appreciation of the complicated forces at play in the 1860s. He also seems to understand well the tendency of those in Hollywood and US society in general to portray Southerners as pure evil and Northerners as holy warriors fighting for all that was just and noble (isn’t this the way the US always portrays its wars, no matter the reality of the situation?). In an essay entitled Beyond the Myth, Mr Maxwell wrote:
There are more than a few in the academy, in the media, in politics, who tend to reduce the fearful agony of the Civil War [sic] to simplistic jargon. They insist on seeing the war in terms of the good guys and the bad guys. Since this is Hollywood’s customary way of looking at all of human history, it is all the more challenging to avoid taking this dramatic turn in a film on the Civil War [sic].
Would that there were room in Hollywood for more people like Ron Maxwell!