Ron Maxwell is the director of the upcoming film "Copperhead," which is due out this summer. "Copperhead" tells the story of one family's struggle with faith, freedom, and the idea of fighting during the Civil War.
The Christian Post: How did you learn of the term "Copperhead" and how does it specifically apply to the film?
Maxwell: The term actually comes from the fact that the Copperhead is a Southern snake; Northerners would wear a copper penny as a badge of honor. It became the most used term in the North for those against the war. It's not that they were pro-slavery; they simply did not want to participate or believe in the Civil War. I read the novel that the movie is based on ("The Copperhead"). The author wrote a lot about where he grew up; I call him the Charles Dickens of upstate New York.
I'd heard the term years and years ago but wasn't focused on it, referred to anti-war Democrats in the North during the Civil War. I knew more layers of that history, that certain U.S. elected representatives were very vociferous in their opinions about the war. In 1862, the zenith of the Copperhead movement, they were elected mayors, leaders … Lincoln may have been defeated in the fall of 1862 had there been a presidential election in the fall of 1862.
CP: What role does faith play in the film?
Maxwell: The Biblical world permeates the time frame. It's central to the film. This community is a wholly Christian community; we're not specific about what denomination holds precedence, but you can tell it's a church that is simple and rural. You find out right away that faith is crucial to the community and arguments run through the movie about Scriptural interpretation. The subtext is: What is your responsibility as a Christian? Abner, the lead character, is the kind of guy who lives out his faith; Gee, his rival, preaches it. It's up to the viewer to see where he or she may fall along those lines.
Do you live out your faith or do you preach about it? Believers go through this process their entire lives: one moment they're trying to win people over and another they are simply living their lives, without really "preaching." Faith was pressed to the forefront during the Civil War. There are three scenes in the church, showing just how important the building and faith itself was to this community.
People would use their Scriptural interpretation to advocate for their stance either for or against the war. Today, liberation theologists find justification for war in their theology. In summary, faith runs through the whole movie, helps drive the story.
In the film, someone who is anti-war is seen as the enemy; he is obstructing the great crusade to go free the slaves. He is willing to dehumanize his enemy and call him a Copperhead (or snake) in order to free the slaves and end slavery. All of these men are trying to do the right thing as influenced by the Bible and their teachings, so it's up to the viewer to judge who is right or wrong … if there has to be a right or wrong belief.
To learn more about Ron Maxwell and/or "Copperhead," click HERE.
"Copperhead" will be released this summer, but you can watch the official trailer HERE: