February 20, 2013

Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” will probably walk away with this year’s Academy Award for best picture, and that would be unfortunate. As Post film critic Ann Hornaday pointed out [“To grasp slavery’s horror, see ‘Django,’ not ‘Lincoln,’ ” Outlook, Feb. 17], “Enslaved people and the terror they endured in the 19th-century South are never portrayed” in the film.

Mr. Spielberg did not shy away from depicting the extent of man’s institutionalized cruelty in his moving “Schindler’s List.” Why not in “Lincoln”? Worse, the film ignores the contributions African Americans made toward their own liberation. Instead, they are portrayed as loyal Union soldiers and observers from the balcony as Congress debates their fate. This was simply not the case.

From the moment they were brought to these shores, African Americans resisted their enslavement, spawning leaders such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. In fact, at the time “Lincoln” takes place, Washington had a significant free black population, many of whom walked the streets in front of the White House. But this is not portrayed.

“Lincoln” concludes with stalwart abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, a white man, in bed with his compliant African American housekeeper. All of the dramatic political maneuvering we had just witnessed on the screen, the struggle of lawmakers to come to grips with how to help make right years of unjust legalized oppression — all of this is reduced to the conjugal relationship between two disparate individuals. Here, once again, “Lincoln” misses the point.

Tony Gittens, Washington

The writer is director of the Washington, D.C., International Film Festival.