JOHN CASORby Giovanni Vines
"Virginia’s first legally recognized slave was enslaved by a black man to protect him from slavery"
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"John Casor" is based on the true story of the slave, John Casor, and his African-born master, Anthony Johnson, and takes place over a 29-year period, from 1641 to 1670. Anthony Johnson is one of a dozen prosperous landowners living on Virginias eastern shore who were born in Africa. These landowners originally arrived in Virginia as slaves, and were eventually released from servitude, given land, and allowed to pursue the American dream.
The story opens with Johnson purchasing John Casor from a sea captain in Jamestown. On the boat ride back to Johnsons plantation, the two men realize that they both came from the same region of Africa. Johnson explains that Virginia is a land of opportunity for all, "regardless of where a man comes from and how he got here"; suggesting that John Casor may hope to one day be released from servitude.
Anthony and his eldest child, Virginia, conflict over John Casors duties as a family servant. Anthony wants him out working in the fields. But Virginia, a dynamic social leader, needs John Casor to help her fulfill her increasing obligations by escorting her to the neighbors and to the settlements.
Virginia and her sister, Elizabeth, both have pending marriage proposals with sons of white planters. But Virginias plans are aborted when her fiances family becomes reluctant to invite a negro into a traditional English family.
In spite of her disappointment, there are still dozens of young men who vie for Virginias affections. But she develops strong feelings for John Casor and ultimately chooses to abandon her dream of becoming the wife of a wealthy, white planter, in favor of following her heart. After seven years of servitude, John Casor confronts Anthony and requests his freedom, which Anthony reluctantly grants.
John Casor initiates his own quest for the American dream, hoping to form a family with Virginia. He signs a five-year indenture agreement, attempting to acquire his own land. But the planter he agrees to work for is an advocate for outright slavery and John Casor is abused and severely mistreated.
The Johnson family comes to his rescue by going to court to argue that John Casors status as a slave is still valid. The court agrees, declares John Casor a slave for life, and orders his return to the Johnsons.
A slavery cabal forms, hoping to solve Virginias insatiable need for laborers with African slaves. They fear that, as the number of slaves increases, the likelihood of a revolt also increases. They reason that the accumulation of wealth by negro landowners must be thwarted, so they are not in a position to support a revolt. One night, a squad of arsonists destroys the Johnson plantation with fire. Anthony calls a family meeting and announces that he and his wife will settle their affairs in Virginia and relocate to Maryland.
John Casor and Virginia manage to develop a small farm and raise two boys. One day, they are informed of Anthonys death. At a probate hearing, the court denies the family their fathers inheritance on the grounds that he was of African origin, and therefore an alien to England. His property reverts to the Commonwealth. The family barrister counsels Virginia and John Casor, explaining that since he was legally a slave, he was property, and therefore could also be seized by the commonwealth.
The couple is left with no choice. They are forced to leave their beloved Virginia and emigrate to Maryland for their safety. The story concludes with a cathartic soliloquy, with Virginia lamenting the loss of her beloved, now estranged homeland, Virginia.
Read the John Casor Screenplay
Based on the true story of Anthony Johnson and John Casor.
Coverage, Comments and EndorsementsCoverage: Julia Verdin – Rough Diamond Productions
The Favorite meets 12 Years a Slave in this gripping period drama, revolving around the ascent, then gradual descent of John Casor’s fight for freedom.
You have encapsulated the time period perfectly here and provided your characters with very regal and eloquently spoken lines. Well done!
The era of slavery during the 1600s is hardly touched upon in film, so there is originality to be found in that. There are also new themes in this that, arguably, a lot of audiences wouldn’t know about, such as black land owners during the time period, along with indentured servitude over slavery.
If the right talent were attached, this could do well.
Coverage: Screenplay Readers
An engaging historical drama, "John Casor" benefits from its focus on a unique and unexplored area of American history as it delves into the earliest origins of slavery.
Though John Casor is a historical figure, the story does not follow the traditional structure of the bio-pic and instead offers a strong focus on its characters and a love story that subverts the conventional depiction of historical figures. Instead of a stodgy costume drama, we are given an honest and provocative depiction of sex and youthful abandonment.
Equally intriguing is the exploration of the role free blacks played in the early days of the slave trade, for Anthony, a black slave owner, is no abolitionist and theres an irony in the fact that the lovers happy ending is entirely dependent on John being legally declared to be Anthonys slave.
Virginias awakening to the hypocrisy of the colony she was named for is a strong character arc and the action scene involving the Pamunkey is vivid and well-conceived.
The various legal proceedings are a fascinating aspect of the story and represent the moment when the characters affect the course of historical events. Overall, "John Casor" is a unique and ambitious historical drama that shines a spotlight on an untold era of American history and, despite the historical setting, has modern appeal thanks to its exploration of gender and racial politics.
"From racy to rage to verklempt, John Casor grabs your sense and sensibilities, opens your heart to the possibility of together and then crushes your ethical view of our past. This will be a must watch, share and discuss movie."
-- Bradley L. Bartz, Producer
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Based on the 2018 novel by Mayumi Takadanobaba
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Screenplay: Giovanni Vines|
Story: Mayumi Takadanobaba
Producer: Bradley L. Bartz