of director A.J. Edwards’ The Better Angels .
Ticket Information: $7.50 general admission; $7.00 seniors
courtesy of Amplify Releasing:
At an isolated log cabin in the harsh wilderness of Indiana circa 1817, the rhythms of love, tragedy, and the daily hardships of life on the developing frontier shaped one of our nation’s greatest heroes: Abraham Lincoln. Using glorious black and white cinematography to conjure an America where the land was raw, The Better Angels sheds new light on the formative years of the future president and the two women who molded him into one of the most revered men in American history. Based on 19th-century interviews with Lincoln’s family members, The Better Angels is a beautiful, insightful, and brilliantly composed feature debut from producer Terrence Malick’s longtime protégé, A.J. Edwards.
courtesy of Amplify Releasing:
A.J. Edwards was born in Walnut Creek, CA and raised in San Antonio, TX. In 2004, he was co-cinematographer on the documentary, The Making of the New World as well as co-editor of the Terrence Malick film, The New World. Edwards has since worked with Malick as 2nd unit director and co-editor on several other features, including Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, To the Wonder starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem, and Knight of Cups starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. On The Tree of Life, Edwards was also integral in the development of the project, assisting in the casting of the major players, namely, three young boys. This was achieved through an exhaustive, nationwide search that resulted in tremendous success. The naturalism of the unknown boys brought great authenticity and believability to the historical drama.
courtesy of film’s website:
Abraham Lincoln’s youth in Indiana occurred during a period known as the Second Great Awakening, a time of enormous growth in several Christian sects especially the Methodists and Baptists, who preached a gospel of individual freedom and a personal connection with God. This movement started in the 1790s and gained notice in 1801 when 20,000 people attend a four-day revival meeting at Cane Ridge, Kentucky. At outdoor revivals and camp meetings throughout the country and especially along the frontier, traveling preachers encouraged public confession of sins and an emotional conversion that could include wailing, singing, speaking in tongues, shaking and falling motionless on the ground.
The Awakening was a period when utopian communities and new religions were established such as the Latter-Day Saints or Mormons, the Millerites, and the Harmonists, a communal society that settled in Indiana in 1814 just sixty miles from Lincoln’s home in Pigeon Creek. Other Christian sects expanded dramatically such as the Shakers, a highly successful network of communities known for their crafts but also their distinctive forms of worship that included singing and dancing with great intensity.
Less extreme but equally influential were the efforts of ministers like Lyman Beecher of Cincinnati whose children included Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There is a direct connection between the evangelical efforts of religious leaders and the large number of reform movements that flourished during this time including the abolition of slavery, temperance, prison reform, and women’s suffrage. The leaders of these causes combined their religious passion with political activism. Although Abraham Lincoln never formally joined a church, he came of age morally and politically during this time of social and cultural transformation in American life.
The powerful influence of religious faith is evident throughout The Better Angels. Lincoln’s mother, Nancy, is described as “a believer.” After her death, Abraham writes to a preacher to come to the Indiana frontier and give her “a proper burial.” The Lincoln family prays at mealtime and Lincoln recites the Lord’s Prayer with his classmates at school. At home he teaches himself to read the Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress. His father is given the “honor” of building a new church and Lincoln is seen there lighting candles. Most important, he attends a service and hears the preacher’s sermon that encourages “Christian benevolence” and reminds the congregation that the person who “supports the cause of some, promotes the good of all.” These scenes suggest the way Lincoln’s childhood experience of religion shaped the man he was to become.
1815—US victory in the Battle of New Orleans, last battle of the War of 1812
1816—Lincoln family moves to Pigeon Creek, Perry County (later Spencer County—1818) Indiana
1816—Indiana admitted as the 19th state; bans slavery, and promotes education
1817—Abraham Lincoln shoots and kills a wild turkey and vows never to hunt again
1817—James Monroe inaugurated as fifth U.S. president
1818—October 5, Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, dies
1819—Spain cedes Florida to U.S.
1819—December 2,Thomas Lincoln marries Sarah Bush Johnston in Kentucky, returns to Pigeon Creek
1820—Missouri Compromise sets boundary where slavery will be permitted
1820—Thomas Lincoln helps build Pigeon Creek Baptist Church
1822—Denmark Vesey rebellion in Charleston; Vesey and 34 co-conspirators hanged
1823—Monroe Doctrine declares that European colonization of New World will not be permitted
1820-24—Abraham Lincoln attends school at various intervals not more than a year total
1825—John Quincy Adams inaugurated at sixth U.S. president
1825—Erie Canal completed
1828—Sarah Lincoln, sister, dies in childbirth
1828—Abraham Lincoln travels to New Orleans; sees a slave auction for the first time
1828—Baltimore and Ohio Railroad construction begins
1828—Chesapeake and Ohio Canal construction begins
1830—Lincoln family moves to Illinois
1830—Indian Removal Act
1831—Abe Lincoln takes his second trip to New Orleans; resettles in New Salem, Illinois away from his family
1831—Nat Turner slave rebellion in Virginia
1831—William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator, abolitionist newspaper
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
2/3/16 – Be sure to check out Jordan M. Smith’s interview with A.J. Edwards, director of The Better Angels (2015), as well as editor of To The Wonder and the forthcoming Knight Of Cups! – link
2/5/16 – “Thanks to its indelible image-making and dedication to what could be termed lyrical realism, The Better Angels (2015) notably succeeds in creating a vivid impression of the physical and familial circumstances that crucially shaped [Lincoln’s] heart and mind.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter – link
2/11/16 – Speaking of Terrence Malick, how do you feel about all the comparisons and all the mentions of his name in relation to your project? “I’m very flattered by them. For a filmmaker to be compared to him is like a first-time author being compared to James Joyce. I think some of them are a little surprising because of what a master and a legend he is, but at the same time I hope the film has its own voice, its own legs to stand on. The uniqueness of the picture relies on the subject matter itself, and I think there are many new ideas, which Mr. Malick hasn’t explored in his material.” A.J. Edwards, Indiewire – link
2/11/16 – “Hypnotic….mesmerizing….The idea is to let the film wash over you, to embrace this unique opportunity to vicariously identify with an exceptional man at a stage before greatness set in, yet signs of certain special qualities were already evident.” Peter Debruge, Variety – link