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Offline Rapunzel

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The Home Front (Circa 1862)
« on: July 04, 2013, 12:26:48 AM »

The Home Front (Circa 1862)

By Christopher Orlet on 7.3.13 @ 6:07AM

A side of the Civil War never seen before on the silver screen.

We think of The War Between the States as a conflict that tore families apart, a war in which brother fought against brother, and whole Southern cities were burned to the ground. But the war had a devastating impact on Northern communities too.

One such community, The Corners, is the setting of a new movie by Ron Maxwell, director of the classic Civil War films Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. Set in upstate New York, Copperhead is the tale of two families, the Beeches, the lone Peace Democrats in a village of Lincoln-supporting unionists, and the abolitionist Hagadorns, who see in the war the best chance to abolish the great evil of slavery.

More than a mere Peace Democrat, Abner Beech (Billy Campbell) is a localist and a pacifist, the kind of man Wendell Berry might write essays about. In the film’s key exchange, Abner is asked by Avery, the village blacksmith (Peter Fonda), if the union means nothing to him. “It means something,” Abner says. “It means more than something. But it doesn’t mean everything. My family means more to me, my farm, The Corners means more. York State means more to me. Though we disagree, Avery, you mean more to me than any union.”

The union is certainly not worth the death of 700,000 boys and men, not to mention the Lincoln administration’s numerous and repeated violations of the U.S. Constitution. Americans like to think the Constitution is sacred, but that seems to be the case only when times are good, and those few times when peace reigns. Of course, during the War Between the States (or many subsequent wars, for that matter) such treasonous talk from the loyal opposition could get a man thrown in the hoosegow, or tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail by his erstwhile friends and neighbors.

Abner Beech’s strength is his willingness to suffer any abuse for his beliefs. Nor is abuse in short supply. Beech is vilified. His party is demeaned in Sunday sermons. His neighbors refuse to buy his milk and lumber. His hired hand’s voting privileges are revoked. All of this steels Abner in his conviction that war is an unmitigated evil, for even on the home front it acts like a fever that deranges men.

SCREENWRITER Bill Kauffman, a columnist for the American Conservative, adapted Copperhead from an 1893 novella by Harold Frederic. The novel sold poorly in its time, no doubt because it failed to appeal to Lincoln groupies or Southern romantics. (I suspect that 120 years later the film may suffer the same undeserved fate.) Kauffman’s adaptation, however, serves as the perfect vehicle for his own particular brand of anti-war regionalism, which he has chronicled extensively in such books as Look Homeward, America, Ain’t My America, and America First.

Historically challenged critics accuse Copperhead of going soft on slavery. Alyssa Rosenberg, in ThinkProgress, chastised Maxwell and Kauffman for their sympathetic portrayal of copperheads. “In its advertising [Copperhead] is hiding the uncomfortable truth of the copperheads’ acceptance of slavery,” she writes.

Admittedly, Beech, who has never seen a slave, has little to say about the peculiar institution, and much to say against the abolitionists who insist on dragging his town, county, and state to war. Copperheads often did support slavery, but copperheads were not a monolithic bloc. There were Jacksonian Democrats, like Abner Beech, who believed secession was lawful because the Constitution says nothing about the terms of membership in the union. There were the German Catholic and Irish immigrants who opposed the Republican Party for its embrace of the anti-Catholic immigrant, pro-temperance nationalists. And there were the former Southerners who moved north. It is the latter who were most likely to support slavery.

Doubtless the Abner Beech of Frederic’s novel a flawed character. He is not easy to love. He is mule-headed, naive (he thinks an armistice is a real possibility), and a fervent anti-abolitionist. But of what interest is a character who is not flawed? Beech is real for his time and place. Kauffman and Maxwell have altered Beech somewhat to mirror their regionalist, non-interventionist views. Hence, their Copperhead is not another Lincoln hagiography, but a film about love of place, love of the Constitution, and the difficulty of following the Nazarene’s injunction to love one’s neighbor. That is the film’s great contribution.
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves.” G Washington July 2, 1776

Offline Rapunzel

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Re: The Home Front (Circa 1862)
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2013, 12:35:16 AM »

Ron Maxwell's 'Copperhead' to Get U.S. Release Via Brainstorm Media, Film Collective
4:57 AM PDT 6/6/2013 by Etan Vlessing

The Civil War chronicler is readying his latest epic film for a summer rollout after it received a standing ovation from wounded and recovering soldiers at the GI Film Festival in Arlington, Va.

TORONTO – Civil War chronicler Ron Maxwell last month screened his latest movie, Copperhead, over the Memorial Day weekend to a festival audience filled with warriors, many wounded, disabled or on home leave.
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He was showing the Billy Campbell, Angus Macfadyen, and Peter Fonda-starring war drama at the GI Film Festival in Arlington, Va., near to battlefields whose names figure prominently in American history.

“A lot were veterans, and some wounded veterans. These are people who in the last 10 years have been to war zones,” Maxwell told The Hollywood Reporter about the returning and recovering service members.

The third in the director’s Civil War trilogy after Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, Copperhead is a drama about families on the home front split by the bloodshed of the American Civil War in 1862 Upstate New York.

The indie is based on the 19th century novel of the same name by Harold Frederic, adapted by Bill Kaufman.

Copperhead examines the price of dissent amid the hysteria of war, and takes its name from a derisive term used during the Civil War to insult Northerners who opposed the historical conflict.

And, judging by the festival response in Arlington, Maxwell insists Copperhead plays well before actual soldiers.

“That audience gave us a standing ovation. The film is about the copperhead, because they believe war is not the answer. He’s anti-slavery, he’s for the Union. He doesn’t think war is the solution,” the director said.

After a cast and crew screening Thursday night in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Maxwell is readying Copperhead for a U.S. release via The Film Collective and Brainstorm Media, starting in select U.S. theaters from June 28.

STORY: Jason Patric Exits 'Copperhead' Film Shoot Over Creative Differences

Brainstorm, the Los Angeles sales agent and distributor, will roll the film out on VOD, as The Film Collective handles theatrical.

Maxwell, who as a director is used to controlling a film set with hundreds of extras and Civil War re-enactors as they recreate complex battle scenes, will be hands-on with the distribution of Copperhead.

“This is not the kind of movie that you dump on 5,000 screens. It requires considerable handling and targeting of your primary audience,” the director explained.

And that targeted audience mostly will be found in Civil War country, east of the Mississippi.

Brainstorm and The Film Collective are also releasing Copperhead at the height of the summer tourist season, so families can visit and walk over battleground and historical sites by day, before seeing the film in a local cinema that evening.

“People who love American history, who love the Civil War, these are fans of my movies. This is our core audience,” Maxwell said.

The director is also betting filmgoers will see in his latest Civil War epic present-day parallels.

“How can they not think of their neighbors coming back with postbattle syndrome, wounded or not coming back at all? Those audiences will make their own connections,” Maxwell said.

Copperhead is banking on stand-out performances, including from Campbell, playing the patriarch, Abner Beech, a stubborn and righteous farmer who defies his neighbors and his government, while Macfadyen performs the role of Jee Hagadorn, a rival capable of deadly violence for his ideals. Also cast was Fonda, as Abner’s neighbor Avery.

Rounding out the cast are Casey Brown, Josh Cruddas, Lucy Boynton, Augustus Prew, Francois Arnaud, Genevieve Steele, Andrea Lee Norwood, Mary Fay Coady and Hugh Thompson.
“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves.” G Washington July 2, 1776

Offline mountaineer

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Re: The Home Front (Circa 1862)
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2013, 08:31:44 AM »
I heard about this on the radio (perhaps Glenn Beck's show). Sounds very interesting.
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but rather he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” Samuel Adams, April 16, 1781.

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