Emancipation (2022) - full transcript

A runaway slave forges through the swamps of Louisiana on a tortuous journey to escape plantation owners that nearly killed him.

That's right. Move it along.
Come on. Gather 'em up.


Hurry up now.

"Give thanks to God, for he is good…

His love endures forever."

"The Lord is with me.
I will not be afraid…

What can a mere man do to me?"

"The Lord is my helper…

I will look in triumph at my enemies."

"The Lord is with me…

He is my strength…

and my defense…

He has become my salvation."

"The Lord is God."

"He will shine upon those
who trust in him."

You are the last drop of water…

…in my mouth.

You are the sun
that warms me in the morning.


Come on, boy. Let's go.


Stay together.

I said now, boy.

Do not touch me. I will walk.

- What the hell?
- Boy, you'll get... Come on.

Get out of there.


Get back, boy!

- Come on. Damn it, let go.
- Help! Come on!

Get here, boy.


Hey. Get... Get back.

Damn animal bit me!

Hey! Hey!

- No, no, no!
- Papa.

- That's enough.
- No!

Captain Lyons. Please, sir.

I will walk.

Please don't fight.

- Peter!
- No!

Come on.

Oh, Peter.

Got him in. Hyah.

- Move over.
- You get back to work. All of you.

All right now. Get on with your work.

You tell General Beall, should he
impress any more of my property,

I will take it up with
Jefferson Davis himself.

Gonna ruin my business, this taxation.

The nigger's my best blacksmith.


Papa, come back!

Stay together. Stay together.

Papa! Papa!

- Scipion!
- Get back here, boy.

- Papa!
- Get back! Get back here.

- Scipion! Scipion!
- I will come back to you!


- Papa!
- I will come back to you!

- Check your boy. Control him.
- Papa!

Go... Go back to your work!
Go back to your work!

Keep it moving. Move.

Everybody out!

Eyes down. Eyes down.

Man said, "Eyes down."
Down. Keep 'em there.

Come on now, don't slack. You hear?

- Move!
- Move.

Get away from him.

Get away from him, I said.

That's right, keep it spinning.

Get it all out.

Let's go! Keep moving!

Hurry up.

Eyes down, boy. Come on. Go!

Don't make me yell again.

We got a runner.

Hyah! Come on.

Come on! Get to work!

The Bible says,
"Slaves, be obedient to your masters.

Not with eye-service or men-pleasers,
but as the servants of Christ,

doing the will of God.

Though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I shall fear no evil"…

…"for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

Good dog. Get that scent.

What the hell are you doing?

You stop when I say stop.

You, get him outta here.

Inside! All you!

Keep moving, nigger.

Let's go, y'all.

Let's go.

I wanna see full scoops.
I wanna see a full shovelful.

The railroad ain't gonna build itself.

What's the matter?

Big ape like you can't carry it? Huh?
Come on, boy.

Move, boy. Move!

What are you doing, boy?

This man needs help.

You hard of hearing?

I say when someone needs help.

Come on now. Get about it.
Get back to work over there.

You a cold one, ain't ya?

Easy. Come on.

Where'd you catch him?

Get up, goddamn it.

No, no, no, no, no. Easy.

Thank you.

See there, that Black man?

He was sold with me in Opelousas,
ran away.

Looks like he works for Jim Fassel now.

Biggest man hunter around these parts.
Hunts day and night.

That's it. Get him down.

Wounded coming in.

All right. Here we go.

Get him to a nurse if he can't…

Make some room for you guys…

This one too.

Right through here.
You can chain him on the floor.

Medical said they'd take him.

What do they call you?


Do you have a family, Tomas?

A wife?

Someone to think about?

A mama?

Then remember…

This is just work.

Same as you always done. Just work.

God is with us.

How can you say that to him?

"God is with us."

Wh-Where... Where... Where is he?

And why has he not set you free? Hmm?

Or has he?

Oh. So... So you...
You are... are not in these?

Well, then stand up…

Stand up…
…G-Go. Stand up.

Stand up, a-and praise your God
for all he has done for you,

for-for-for-for all of us.


God is not with you.

He is nowhere.

And he sends that fool to...
To tell us about his word.

To-To be a good slave.

To-To-To-To-To be obedient
to your masters.

Is that what God says to you?

God says many things…

I do not know why…

God shows himself to some people
and not to others…

But if you do not know him…

I will pray for you.

Matthew 17:20 says
that you can move a mountain.

But faith without work is dead. Faith!

It's okay to work and die for your master.

- Faith is obedience. Be obedient.
- Come on down. Hold it, hold it.

Bring it down. All right, all right. Yeah.

- Faith. Give unto the Lord…
- All right. Keep moving.

There we go. Up, up.

…Give unto the Lord the glory…

Look alive. Look alive. Okay. All right.

Steady yourself. Long day out here.

Water break!

Not you. Not you.

Not you.

Book of Timothy teaches us,

"All who's under the yoke of slavery
should consider their masters worthy,

worthy of respect."

You, you. Water.

Book of Timothy teaches us,

"All who's under the yoke of slavery,
should consider your master worthy,

worthy of respect"…




Clear! Let's go! Let's move! Move!

Back to work.

"And God has revealed his very will to me.

And so, I issue Proclamation 95."

What the hell's that mean?

Lincoln freed the slaves.


Lincoln freed the slaves.

Get on, boy.
Fetch us a couple tins of water.

Desperate man, Lincoln.

You know, according to one of these other
papers from a couple weeks back,

slaves are running to Baton Rouge
from every direction

now that Grant holds the town.

Fixing for liberty. One and all.

Matter with you?

Nigger put something in my stew.

And the damn corn pone's rotted out!

Damn you, son of a bitch.
You put something in my stew, nigger?

What y'all looking at? Get back to work.

What you put in my stew?

What, now you gonna eyeball me again, boy?
Get over here. Get over here!

You gone crazy from the heat, boy? Hmm?

He is just a child.

Boy must have a death wish. Hmm?


Back to work.


I'm your God.

You walk the Earth because I let you.

You're my dog now.

Perhaps you will give me some of that
fine meat you give your other dog.

You're funny now, big stick.

You'll see.

Come on. Hurry up.

Go! Let's go!

One, two, three, four! One!

Hey, keep moving.

- One, two, three, four!
- He's a dead man.


You miss your family?

The dog's got your scent. So do I.

Yeah, well, move it now.

- I heard it myself.
- Back it up!

Slaves are free.


Says who?

Lincoln. We must get to Baton Rouge.
Lincoln's army is there.

It's true. I heard it also.

Bring it up! Let's go.

So, where is Baton Rouge?

Five days through the swamp.

There are many ways to die in a swamp.

There are many ways to die here.

If you go, I'll follow.

Hey. Get it outta here.

Get it outta here.

Up the pit.


Get it in.

Should get that lime in there,
you cowards! Whole damn camp stinks.

The hell we will.

Not when there's a perfectly good nigger
to do it.

You gonna hang, damn deserter.

Here. Dig.

Get that lime in there.

Damn you, nigger.

Whoever bemoans the master's will…

Runner! Runner!

We've got a runner!

Let's go! Run, run!


They're going for the swamp!

We got work.

Swamp. This way.

Tomas. Come, Tomas.

Come on. Come on. Come on.

Get out of there.


Where are we going?

Do you know where you're going,

- or are you just running?
- Damn it.

I take you back to that camp,
they're gonna grind you up like meat.

You tell me where your friends
are heading, though… and I'll let you go.

You ain't worth chasing.

- Swamp.
- Swamp's everywhere.

Which direction? North? East?

Had an idea to get to Lincoln's army.

Down Baton Rouge, southwest.

All right. Go on, then.

Go on.

Go on, then.

Give my regards to old Abe.

Look here, boss. We got a runner.

See a nigger with an idea,
best put him underground.

Split up.

W-Which way?


Horse trail. It's faster.

No, too dangerous.

I have a gun.

- They have more.
- I am going.

- Do not.
- You are not my master.

He is too brave. I follow you.

No, we must go our own way.

Harder to track.

You abandon me?


Go through the swamp.

Follow the sound of Lincoln's cannons.


Go on, take the horse trail.

…we understand

Come, let us bow our heads…

The Father, the Son

and the Holy Spirit.

Bless us, oh, Lord.

It is thy gifts,

which we are about to receive…

…from thy bounty.

Through Christ, our Lord.


Runner. Runner!


Runner! Runner!

Runner! Runner!

Runner! Runner!

Runner! Runner!


Runner! Runner!

It went that way, towards the swamp.

These guys are not letting him out.

That's a clever son bitch.

Looks like he went through that swamp.

Mama, you all right?

Saw your papa.

You think he's alive?

I know it.

What if he don't come back?

Your papa is going to be back.

Do not ever stop believing that.


Your papa is going to be back.

Do not ever stop believing that.

I've seen your papa survive things
most men can't.

When we came here,
they insisted that we change.

Change our names…

…our language.

They even tried to change who we are.

Your papa taught us to hold on.

Now it is our turn to do the same for him.

Hold on.

Hold on to each other.

Hold on.


Hold on.


Come, come, come.


Look like he knew
right where to do him, too.

Ain't no way that boy
got away from this thing.

Open her up.

Ain't nothin' in him.

Ah, yeah… …look at that.

Our boy fixed a gator.

How in the hell does an ignorant nigger
got knowledge like that?

You're the ignorant one
thinking like that.

My father was a corn husker…

My mother passed when I was young, so…

the job of raising me
fell on our nigger house girl.

She took care of me.

She fed me. She washed me.
She taught me things…

She was my friend.

One evening…

I asked my father
if she could join us for supper,

and he looked at me in a funny way
and said, "Then what?"

I said, "So we could eat together,"
to which he asked, "Then what?"

I didn't know, I was just a boy.
But he did.

He said…

…"First, they eat our food,

then they'll take our jobs
and then they'll steal our land.

We give the nigger so much as a crumb,

they're going to take over
the whole damn country."

I was so ashamed. I…

I told him I'd been sneaking her food
when she was hungry.

He got real quiet…

Called her into the dining room,
picked up a dinner knife and…

fixed her right there.

Left her in the field to rot.

Took her three days to die.

Last thing she said was, "Why?"

Hopped a train to St. Louis,
made my way down to Mississippi,

found myself in this here swamp.

And know what I saw?

I saw niggers, just like her…

running, hiding… surviving.

People make 'em out to be ignorant,
but far from it.

In fact, what's worse…
…is they tend to be persistent.

See, one gets free…

then another, then another,
then another, then another.

And someday,
they may return the favor on us.

Can you imagine?


The Lord is my salvation.
The Lord is my salvation.

He is salvation.


I shall fear no enemy.

I shall fear no enemy.

Boy must be dead by now.

Find him.

Mssr. Hurley?

Everything good, sir?

Morning after next,

man named Mr. Fabian gonna cart in up
from Atchafalaya, way of Simmesport.

Yes, sir.

You come around the barn,
go off with him when he leaves.

- Sir?
- Captain Lyons sold you.

There a problem?

Have I displeased Captain Lyons?

Not that I'm aware of.

Betsy sure has gotten big, hasn't she?

She's almost as tall as you are now.


Then my children and I look forward
to serving Mr. Fabian.

Yeah, children ain't going.


Well, Mr. Fabian said
he has you a new husband,

now that yours has been put to war.

Hey, look at me. Look at me.

We clear?

Please, sir.

I said, are we clear?

Yes, sir.


Now go on, get back to work.



Go inside.

You have led dogs to me.

I have done nothing.

I will shoot you.

No, no, no.


Onion. Onion. Rub.

Dogs cannot smell. Take it. Take it.

Look. Look.

You are mad.

To hell with you.

There's something there.

Bitch got a scent.

Come on down, boy!

Goddamn it, get your ass down from there!

- Get back.
- Don't point that goddamn gun at me.

- Get back!
- Get your ass down here!

You do not own me!

I am not going back!

I am not a slave.

I am a man.

I am a man!

I am a man! I...

There you go. Come on.

Where's your friend?

Where's your friend?

No more running.

Where's your friend?

Where's your friend?

Bring this back to camp.

Come on.

Sent away?

Sent where?

Up Atchafalaya.

Mama, you can't.

Man sold me off.

We need to run.

Hey. Do you know what happens to runners?


We can't do nothing.

You're getting sent away, Mama.

- We can't do nothing.
- I know. Don't you know? I know, Betsy.


Did I say I'm doing nothing? Huh?


- Then damn it, stop running your mouth.
- I'm sorry, Mama.

End of the workday,
come see me by the gin barn.

Don't be late.

You keep pace there.

- Keep it coming.
- Yes, sir.

Nice and steady.

Watch them sides!
Don't leave 'em hanging.

Don't leave so much.
You can fit more in there.

Let's go!


Get it before the damn sun goes down.

We need to stay together.

There ain't no other way?

It's the only way. Okay.

Do it… Now!

Come. Come. Come. Come. Come.

I will get you water. Water.

I want to get you water.

God loves you.

God loves you.

God loves you.

Don't you move.

Do not shoot. Don't... Do not shoot.

Oh. I got you now, boy.

Take that knife out your belt.

Okay. Please, do... Please.

- Do it!
- Okay. Okay.

Right there.

Do not shoot. Do not shoot.

- She alive?
- She's just a child.

I asked if she's alive!

Yes. Yes. She's in a bad way.

So leave it then.

- L-Let me get her water. I...
- I said leave it!

No. No.

Now get up, boy. She gone.


That's it.

Now walk, boy...

Fucking nigger!


You fought that gator.

You fought that gator and survived.

You are the worst kind.

The worst kind.

Well, you got a family.

My boss can help you. Come on...

The s-same boy.
He ran to the field...




Humble down.

Humble down.

Here's your meat.



Beg, dog.




I told you I was your God.

You are not my God.

Captain Andre Cailloux.

1st Louisiana Native Guard.

You are with Lincoln?

Yes, we are.

- Give the man some water.
- Yes, sir.


You alone?

Can you take me to my family?

- Help this man.
- Yes, sir.

Get him shoes. Take his shoes!

Come on.

What are they, Papa?

God's little angels.

Why are they here?

They guide our way.

Didn't think you
would make it. Your leg was so infected.

Where is this?

Baton Rouge.

I must get to my family.

You must rest.

Your name?



Um, I don't know.

Well, pick something.

You pick something.


Did you know your parents?


Where were they from?


Haiti. Is that where you were born?


Former owner?

Lyons. Captain John Lyons.

Cotton planter. The Atchafalaya River.

Atchafalaya. Is that where you ran from?

No. The Army men come, take me to Clinton.
I run from there.



Did you see a railway in Clinton?

Hmm? Train cars carrying big guns?

Yes, I built the tracks.

Am I not free?

Just keep yourself steady.

Technically, while you're here,
you're contraband.

Stolen property.

I must get to my family.

- Dodienne, Betsy, Scipion…
- Mm-mmm. No, no, no.

- …Laurette.
- No, no, no.

- Write their names down.
- No, that is not how this is.

You write down their names.
Lincoln say I am free.

Oh, he did? Well, that's a good thing.

Next time you see Lincoln,
please give him my compliments.

Right now you're in an army camp,
during a time of war.


So you and everyone else who ran here
has a choice.

You'll work on one of the Federal farms…

- governed by this here…
- I will not.

- …set of rules and regulations…
- I will not.

Or you will join the army.

You help us beat these godforsaken devils,
my good man,

and you will not just
get back with your family.

You will help free your family.

And I'm sure your good friend Lincoln
will be mighty proud of you…

Mr. Peter.

Show this man to the Native Guard.

You're dismissed, soldier.


Gordon. Gordon! Gordon... Please, please.

Gordon. Gordon, my friend.

Good to see you, my friend.

- Good to see you. How are you?
- We made it.

Yes, we have.


No, he did not make it.

I will come see you.

Thank you.

Squad, attention!

Squad, at rest.

New recruits, eyes forward.
One arm-length from the next man.

Move up.

Welcome, Brother.

You pick up your uniform up there.

Bonsoir, Peter.

Bonsoir. They're going to let us fight.

They may not have a choice.

Be ready.

There he is, there.

My leg is fine. You will not take it.

Your... Oh, no, no. We're not doctors, sir.

No… …uh...
We were alerted to your condition.

Uh... Well, with your permission,
we were wondering

if you wouldn't like to join us
for a few moments.

It's okay. They're good people.

A uniform will be waiting
when you get back. Yeah? Go on.

- Right this way, sir.
- Thank you, Sister.

All right.

It's called a camera.

What does it do?


See, it, uh...

Makes a likeness of you.

Peter, we're gonna make sure
that every person in the world

knows exactly
what slavery truly looks like.

All right?

Now, um, if you could just
turn your back toward...

Do not touch me.

I'm sorry.

If... If you could turn your back
towards the camera, please.

And, um,

maybe put your arm out...

Your hand on your hip, like so.

And, uh, t-turn your head.

A little more. Yeah.

Is that comfortable?


Thank you.

You were born a free man?

Yeah, that's right.
Bunch of us in this company.

Allowed to read and to write?

Allowed to do a lot of things.

If someone must allow you to do something,
then you are not really free, are you?



Captain Cailloux
and Private Peter reporting, sir.

We know Johnny Reb has big guns
all along the ridge here.

It seems they're putting new ones
down here, along the river,

just south of Port Hudson.

Now if we don't open up this bend here
along the Mississippi,

we'll never control the South.


Is this the Negro here
that was running from Clinton?

Yes, sir.

What were you doing there?

We built the railroad.

What did you see?

It's okay.



Like them?

No, not like those.

Big cannons.

Did you see troops?

Many soldiers.

We've got to take Port Hudson
before those reinforcements arrive.

General, permission to speak?

Johnny Reb is dug in there real deep.

There's only one way in.

It's a killing field, sir.

I know what it is.

But somebody has to mount that attack.

How the hell did you survive
all those days in the swamp? Hmm?

I know the swamp.

Yes, well…

doesn't mean you're fit for combat.

In closed circles,
there's the great Negro question…

Are you fighters, or are you runners?

You know what I see here?



Come on, now.

Come on, boy. This ain't the time.
Come on, let's go.

I fight them.

And they beat me.

They whip me.

They string me up.

They sell me.

They throw me down a well.

They pull me out and beat me again.

And I fight them again.

They cut me.

They burn me.
They burn my neck. They burn my feet.

They break the bones in my body…

more times than I can count,

but they never…

never break me.

Oh, we'll test that mettle.


your men attack at dawn.


You know, I used to run around New Orleans

calling myself
the blackest man in America.

You might got me beat.

Tomorrow on the battlefield,
you're with me.

- Go first.
- Yep.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.


All of us ran here…

But as of now, no more running.

Billy Yank and Johnny Reb,
they fight for money and power.

We fight for something bigger…

We fight for freedom.

Not to prove something to some General.


Freedom for you!

Freedom for the man next to you.

Freedom for the people back in the fields!

We will not ask for freedom!

We will not wait for freedom
to be handed to us!

We will take freedom!

Native Guard!

Forward march!

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left…

…left, right, left.

Left, left...

Native Guard!

Fight! Fight!

Spread out!

Spread out!

Halt! Stop!

To the trenches!

To the trenches! To the trenches!

To the trenches!

To the trenches!

Grab that! Grab that shot!
Take it to the cannon!

Ready! Fire!

Form the line! Form the line!


Keep going!


In formation!

Ready! Aim! Fire!

Ready! Aim! Fi...

Captain Cailloux!

Stay in formation!



It is all right.

- You have done good.
- Mama!

Go to Mama.

Go to her.


Gordon! Gordon!

Peter. Peter, I'm shot!

You're good. You're good.
It went through.

- Get up! Get up!
- They got me.

- They got me!
- We are not dead!

There are too many.

We cannot stay here.

We must get to those cannons.
We must fight!

We must get to those cannons!

Get to those cannons!

Get to those cannons!

Get to those cannons!

Get your hands off of me.

Captain Lyons,

may God above show no mercy
upon your pitiful soul.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left, left, right, left.

Left, left... Company, halt!

We are the Louisiana Native Guard.

You folks are free.


What you mean free?

You're free.
You ain't got to do this no more.

Listen to this man.

We is free. Free.

Five men per house.

- Thank you, Jesus.
- Help these folks. Go on.

Grab your things.
We're all leaving this place.

Thank God.

Bless you. Thank you.

Are you all right? Can you stand?

Stuart! Stuart.

- Are we free?
- My wife, Dodienne, do you know?

- Have you seen her?
- No. No. No.

Bless you.


- Do you know Dodienne?
- No.






Thank you, Lord.

Thank you, Lord. We're free!

Praise the Lord!



Dodienne. Dodienne!


I love you. I love you.

- Peter.
- Papa.

Oh, Peter.

Laurette. Laurette.


Come. Come.

- Betsy!
- Oh, my love.


Come, come. Pray. Pray with me.
Pray with me. Pray.

Thank you, God.

Thank you, God. Thank you, God.

Thank you, God. Thank you.

- Look at you!
- We are together.

Dreamt of this.

God is so good. God is so good.
Thank you, God.