Independence Day. I suspect that few of us reflect for any meaningful time about what this holiday, this day of remembrance, means to our lives. For the most part, we just don’t have to ask ourselves if our rights will be acknowledged. For peoples on America’s margins, their rights to literacy and education, or their personhood were ignored or denied. Of course, these are natural rights for which the U.S.’ founders fought, tooth and nail.
Now how about July 4th movies?
Identifying films about this holiday’s theme, which emphasize well-developed stories and well-drawn characters over spectacular visual effects, is a trial; they’re mostly about action. I suppose that independent and documentary films treat those lofty, incisive questions far more frequently and deftly than commercial ones do. They’re coveted along a different part of our society’s margins.
Some movies remind us of just how grateful we should be for the founders. Although “Nightjohn” does not refer to the Fourth of July, the made-for-TV film fits the bill.
This word rarely pops to mind when you think about access to education; mostly when you’re struggling to make the grade.
It’s also only a popular movie topic when bullets are flying and bodies are dropping. ”Nightjohn” tells a compelling story about a people’s yearning and struggle to simply, merely read; to understand themselves and their world. It stars a thoroughly talented actor, and Minnesota native, Carl Lumbly; He, as well as scores of other actors, seems terribly under employed and underappreciated.
“Nightjohn” is a coming-of-age story to some extent. It was adapted in 1996 from a 1993 novel by Gary Paulsen. This film is a fantastic and fascinating reminder of a people for whom the pursuit of literacy, education, and personhood meant a death sentence. It’s intense, but in a great way; just like all the other Independence Day films.
So find “Nightjohn.” Pull it from your library, rent it from wherever, or buy it. Watch it; Appreciate it and reflect for at least a few moments. When that’s over, talk to your children about independence and gratitude. And then go back out for a swim or light up the grill again.