Michael Apted — born February 10th, 1941 — was a British television and film director and producer. He directed four films of libertarian interest, including one of this website’s top 25 list of most important libertarian films of all time.
In 1992, Apted released the documentary Incident at Oglala, an inquiry into the alleged framing of AIM member Leonard Peltier by the FBI. During the 1970s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was organized to reform and resist the reservation system that had been imposed on Native Americans over the previous centuries. Two FBI agents were killed in a conflict with AIM, and the film suggests the agency framed Peltier to settle the score and pacify the movement.
This was followed in the same year by Thunderheart, a fictionalized thriller inspired by the Leonard Peltier case, in which a part-Sioux FBI agent turns against his superiors after discovering a deadly operation by his agency to squelch Native American resistance to government control. Newsweek said about the film: “Stylishly balancing thrills, mysticism and political outrage, Director Michael Apted has produced his most absorbing movie since Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The film succeeds as both semi-factual expose and fictional whodunit.
Two years later, in 1994, Apted released the documentary Moving the Mountain, which tells the story of a few of the Tiananmen protestors who escaped—sometimes, ironically, because they were identified from wanted posters by ordinary people who helped them instead of turning them in. These escapees, interviewed here, tell their tales of courage, hope, and pain. Curiously, no trailer for this film is available online and it is not available on Amazon streaming or even DVD.
Finally, in 2006, Michael Apted released his greatest libertarian film, Amazing Grace, a terrific telling of the story of William Wilberforce, a British member of Parliament who led an arduous but ultimately victorious life-long battle to abolish the slave trade. Wilberforce’s story is faithfully and warmly told here. Ioan Gruffudd (a.k.a. Horatio Hornblower) gives a fine performance in the leading role, and is supported by (at the time this film was made the little-known actor) Benedict Cumberbatch, as William Pitt.
Michael Apted died in 2021, at age 79. National Review noted in its tribute to him that he was “a director who is interested in learning rather than imposing his pre-decided views on the material” and that he “had the discipline not to impose liberal ideology on his films.” In other words, he was that rare thing in the film industry: an honest person.