6.7/10
324
11 user 6 critic

Nightjohn (1996)

PG-13 | | Drama | TV Movie 1 June 1996
Sarny, a 12-year-old slave girl in the ante-bellum South, faces a relatively hopeless life. Her chief duties at the plantation of Clel Waller are serving at table, spitting tobacco juice on... See full summary »

Director:

Charles Burnett

Writers:

Gary Paulsen (book), Bill Cain (teleplay)
Reviews
2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Beau Bridges ... Clel Waller
Carl Lumbly ... John
Bill Cobbs ... Old Man
Kathleen York ... Callie Waller
Gabriel Casseus ... Outlaw
Tom Nowicki ... Dr. Chamberlain
Joel Traywick Joel Traywick ... Jeff Waller (as Joel Thomas Traywick)
Allison Jones Allison Jones ... Sarny
Patty Mack Patty Mack ... Evelyn
Deborah Duke Deborah Duke ... Lethe
Danny Nelson Danny Nelson ... Reverend Osee Rush
Monica Ford Monica Ford ... Egypt
Gerald Brown Gerald Brown ... Joseph
Robin Michelle McClamb Robin Michelle McClamb ... Sarnys Mother (as Robin McLamb-Vaughn)
Steven Sutherland Steven Sutherland ... Alan Bowen
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Storyline

Sarny, a 12-year-old slave girl in the ante-bellum South, faces a relatively hopeless life. Her chief duties at the plantation of Clel Waller are serving at table, spitting tobacco juice on roses to prevent bugs, and secretly conveying intimate messages between Waller's wife, Callie, and Dr. Chamberlaine. Then Nightjohn arrives. A former runaway slave who bears telltale scars on his back, he takes Sarny under his wing and, in exchange for a pinch of tobacco, secretly begins to teach her to read and write, a crime punishable by death. "Words," he says, "are freedom. Slavery is made of words: laws, deeds and passes." He starts by drawing letters in the dirt and cautions her that no one must know. At her baptism, Sarny steals a Bible that belongs to Waller's son, Jeffrey, and practices reading by lantern-light in the slave quarters. The same Bible serves another purpose when, on a blank page taken from it, Nightjohn forges a pass for Outlaw, a young slave, to use in escaping to freedom ... Written by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Words Are Freedom

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some scenes of racial oppression and abuse

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 June 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Ende der Nacht See more »

Filming Locations:

Sumter, South Carolina, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

All the women's dresses have zippers in the back of them. The zipper wasn't invented until 1917. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 18th Annual CableACE Awards (1996) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A engrossing film with solid characters.
26 September 2004 | by kapinospSee all my reviews

I found NightJohn's story and characters interesting. Actually, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the film, I didn't think I was going to a Hallmark film, but I gave it an 8. I am usually attracted to tough, headstrong characters and John is definitely in that category. John, a slave, defied the master as well as convincing his fellow slaves of the importance of knowledge, in a world that relies on ignorance to survive. The little girl was also a strong, believable character, as was the rest of the cast.

Beau Bridges did a fine job as the cold-hearted plantation owner, as well as all the other actors in the film. Burnett did a great job presenting the story with a right amount of realism and sentimentality, where many films fail, making them too sappy.

I gave it an 8 out of 10. NightJohn reminded me of The Color Purple, it had a similar style and mood. I was engrossed by the film up until the conclusion where the film became a little too unbelievable. If you loved The Color Purple, I recommend NightJohn.


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