Had enough William Wilberforce yet?

A year ago, February 23, 2007, marked the 200th anniversary of the short Parliamentarian's tall triumph, with the passage of a bill banning the slave trade. That same day, the film Amazing Grace released to theaters, and there has been no shortage of Wilberforce-ian resources in the past year.

What has been missing is that middle-ground vehicle: the public television documentary. A biopic like Amazing Grace is an excellent medium to give audiences access to the emotions of great people and the most dramatic moments of their history. That particular film allowed Ioann Gruffud to stretch his acting powers beyond the limits of Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic and show what he could do without special effects. But such films almost demand that the filmmakers play down the complexity of the history and rearrange the details in order to maximize the drama.

For those not yet ready to invest their time in reading a full-length biography, an hour-long documentary, airing throughout February on public television, is just the right bridge to better understanding.

The Better Hour: The Legacy of William Wilberforce does well what television documentaries do. It presents the basic facts of Wilberforce's dramatic life in a calm and orderly fashion, illustrates them with historical images, fleshes out the story with interviews with experts, and grounds it with a basso profundo narration (provided by Avery Brooks, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Captain Benjamin Sisko).

The interviews feature the authors of popular Wilberforce biographies—Kevin Belmonte, Eric Metaxas, John Pollock—and other founts of Wilberforce lore, including Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and David Isherwood, rector of ...

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