Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble

Theatrical Release: April 23, 2000
Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble


Jane Seymour stars in this historical drama as Fanny Kemble, a celebrated British actress, poet and musician of the 19th century. On a theatrical tour of the United States, Kemble falls in love with Pierce Butler (Keith Carradine), a wealthy American lawyer. Little does Fanny realize that marrying Pierce will lead to the fight of her life as she attempts to aid slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad – and to renewed fame as the author of a journal that fans the flames of Civil War.

Dove Review

The hook to this retelling of the plight of slaves during the early years of America is found in its lead character, a snobbish British diva first proclaiming Americans as cloddish and unrefined, then taking it upon herself to fix the injustices of our newly formed country. Although I applaud her efforts to aid the helpless, I question why this person from the United Kingdom was so oblivious to her own country’s misdeeds. Indeed, it is Britain who has much to answer for in its role of strict governing and racial prejudice. Just ask the citizens of India and Ireland, and oh, yeah, the early colonists of the U.S. If ever a nation had a cast system in its past, and showed unjust cruelties ranging from child abuse to cruel world domination, it is merry old England. This film rather piously points out crimes of injustice, but fails to acknowledge those in America who gave their lives to make things right. Once again every white person in the South is portrayed as either ignorant or more evil than Snidely Whiplash. (In truth, many southerners were opposed to slavery and fought to defeat it.) The film leads us to believe that it was a letter written by Fanny Kemble and read in England’s Parliament that was the ultimate cause for reform in America. I’m not quite sure why it is today’s America that must shoulder the blame concerning the institution of slavery, which has been abolished in this land since 1865. Nearly every nation in history, including several modern-day ones, has been responsible for depriving others of their God-given freedoms. Yet, the U.S. more than any other country has been peopled by those determined to correct the wrong thinking that one man is above another. This film is so heavy-handed, with a strong desire to belittle America, that it causes the viewer to question if this really was the true story of Fanny Kemble. Or, perhaps, it is just another in a string of films bent on exploiting America’s faults. There are those who share a psychological need to feel guilty for the deeds of long dead ancestors. Could it be that if we feel enough guilt over the transgressions of the long ago dead, we won’t have to look closely at our own? Now, please don’t misread this. It is important to point out wrongs so that they will not be committed again. I believe, however, that we need to build up rather than tear down. For every tale of greed, avarice and cruelty displayed by citizens of America, there are hundreds that reveal true and giving character. Once in awhile I’d like to see some of those stories come to the screen. I hasten to add that while I did not agree with the prescription of this film, it was disapproved due to profanity, and two scenes with nudity.

Content Description

Faith: None
Integrity: None
Sex: None
Language: None
Violence: None
Drugs: None
Nudity: None
Other: None


Company: Showtime Networks, Inc.
Director: James Keach
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 111 min.
Reviewer: Phil Boatwright