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Constitution Lovers: Take The Chance To See “Copperhead”

Filmmaker Ron Maxwell, who brought Civil War buffs the masterful Gettysburg and Gods and Generals movies, returns to theaters with Copperhead.  In Copperhead, Maxwell again explores the history of America’s Civil War, but from an entirely new perspective: that of the residents of the Northern States who opposed the war and who were derisively known as “Copperheads.” See the trailer here:
At its heart, Maxwell’s film is an exploration of freedom of expression, the price of dissent from majority opinion and how religion forms conflicting moral imperatives – all wrapped in an excellent period piece examining a fascinating and little known element of Civil War history.

And it is hard to imagine a more fitting time for Maxwell’s film to open than the week following Edward Snowden’s indictment on charges that could bring him 30 years in prison.

The howls from today’s politicians looking for a headline, who call Snowden a traitor and claim he should be charged with treason -- which carries a potential for the death penalty -- could have been lifted straight from Maxwell’s dialogue in Copperhead.

When the film’s protagonist, Abner Beech, reads with astonishment a newspaper account of a Senator’s speech in which the august gentlemen says, “Anyone who quotes the Constitution in this crisis is a traitor…” you begin to realize that this film has much more to say about today’s politics than the typical Civil War drama.

Yet, Civil War history buffs will not be disappointed. Copperhead is good solid history with lots of carefully researched and crafted political and cultural detail.

There is also enough family drama and period romance to keep the plot moving at a good clip, but underlying everything is the tension created by the differing views the main characters hold on the war and how to end the evils of slavery.

There are a number of powerful scenes in the film and describing each of them would, of course, make me a spoiler – so I will share just one that seems apropos for today.

As the movie is building to the climax, Abner Beech and his fellow Copperhead, Hurley, head off to vote. When a corrupt election official attempts to prevent Hurley from voting because his papers aren’t in order, a brawl ensues and only by winning the brawl – and shaming the corrupt election officials – does Hurley vote.

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the brazen questions the IRS posed to Tea Party organizations as Hurley was being told his papers were not in order.

In Copperhead, Ron Maxwell is not engaged in naval gazing about liberty – he is reminding us that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it -- and we have already been down the path of considering to be traitors those who demand the government follow the Constitution, with disastrous results for our liberty and humanity.

If you don't see Copperhead listed as opening in your area, go to to demand that the film be shown in your market.

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