Logline:  Through the eyes of a teen slave girl surviving a multi-continent road over three years of extreme hardship until she is finally a free woman, the horrific business of 19th century mid-Atlantic slave trade is revealed, including Wall Street and the insurance companies' financial support of the practice. Within this the arrest, trial, and conviction of the only American slave trader put to death for the crime unfolds as the Civil War begins.

The story is set during the horrible years of 19th-century human trafficking.  The core storyline is inspired by  ANASTÁCIA.  In the movie 16-year-old blue-eyed Anastácia and her family, are slaves purchased by an American slave ship captain, Nathaniel Gordon, in the Congo River basin in 1858.  Enroute to a Brazilian slave market the ship Camargo is suspected to be a slaver and it is pursued by a Brazilian Navy man-of-war.  Evasively, Captain Gordon runs his ship aground as he knows the shallow waters will keep the Brazilan warship at a distance.  The Captain escapes taking Anastácia with him disguised as his servant.  Because of her beauty the Captain knows Anastácia is of high value.  He books passage on a clipper heading to Wilmington, North Carolina from Rio de Janeiro, and upon arriving at the destination, sells her into indentured service to a prominent New York maritime lawyer. Anastácia is taken north to New York City and is put to work as a nanny.  Her new master's wife forces Anastácia to wear a face mask to hide her beauty from the husband.  The wife correctly suspects her husband is obsessed with the young beauty.  Young Anastácia's fate becomes similar to the Saint for which she was named.
During his research and scouting of Brazil John Kuri met with descendants of the slaves of the Camargo in Quilombo, Bracui. During his weeks in Brazil the scout took him into the Amazon and islands of the Atlantic that populate the sea off the shore of Brazil where some of the story is told.

Abraham Lincoln's Pardon Request Denial


 The Text of the Pardon Request Denial

Abraham Lincoln,

President of the United States of America,

To all to whom these Presents shall come Greeting:

Whereas, it appears that at a Term of the Circuit Court of the United States of America for the Southern District of New York held in the month of November A.D. 1861, Nathaniel Gordon was indicted and convicted for being engaged in the Slave Trade, and was by the said Court sentenced to be put to death by hanging by the neck, on Friday the 7th day of February, A.D. 1862;

And whereas, a large number of respectable citizens have earnestly besought me to commute the said sentence of the said Nathaniel Gordon to a term of imprisonment for life, which application I have felt it to be my duty to refuse;

And whereas, it has seemed to me probable that the unsuccessful application made for the commutation of his sentence may have prevented the said Nathaniel Gordon from making the necessary preparation for the awful change which awaits him;

Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America have granted and do hereby grant unto him, the said Nathaniel Gordon, a respite of the above recited sentence, until Friday the twenty first day of February, A.D. 1862, between the hours of twelve o’clock at noon and three o’clock in the afternoon of the said day, when the said sentence shall be executed.

In granting this respite, it becomes my painful duty to admonish the prisoner that, relinquishing all expectation of pardon by Human Authority, he refer himself alone to the mercy of the Common God and Father of all men.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto signed my name and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Fourth day of February A.D. 1862, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-sixth.

                                                            Abraham Lincoln.
By the President:

William H. Seward
                 Secretary of State.

The screenplay is based in part on the book "Hanging Captain Gordon"   From Publishers Weekly Entering the dense fray of Civil War-themed books is this fast-paced story of the 1862 hanging of Nathaniel Gordon, one of many ship captains charged with breaking an 1820 law banning slave-trading, but the only one to ever be executed. Soodalter, a former museum curator and history teacher, uses this singular event as a prism to provide an overview of Civil War-era politics, Lincoln's presidency and the maritime economy of slavery.  Gordon was arrested at the helm of a ship containing 897 slaves near the mouth of the Congo River. Deported to New York to stand trial, Gordon found himself at the center of a sensationalist frenzy, caught between the gears of a nation in flux. The author's vivid depictions of slaving voyages present the squalid conditions aboard slaving ships and New York City's infamous "Tombs" prison where Gordon awaited his execution and the attitude among slavers and politicians that anti-slavery legislation was largely a paper tiger.

The slave ship captain was Nathaniel Gordon.  Gordon's final slave voyage was from the Congo River with 897 captives on board.  Gordon's ship, the Erie, was boarded 50-miles off the west coast of Africa by the U.S. Navy.  In November 1861, Gordon was convicted of slave trading and sentenced to hang. Participation in the slave trade had been punishable by death since 1820, but Gordon was the first man to be executed for the crime. Between 1837 and 1860, seventy-four cases relating to the slave trade had been tried in the United States, but very few men were convicted, and even then they received only light sentences. Only one other slave trader had been sentenced to death, but he received a full pardon from President James Buchanan in 1857.  Gordon’s friends and supporters approached Lincoln, as the President wrote, "to commute the said sentence of the said Nathaniel Gordon to a term of imprisonment for life." Lincoln declined, writing that it was his "duty to refuse." He did, however, delay the execution for two weeks, to allow the prisoner time to make "the necessary preparation for the awful change which awaits him." Lincoln’s unwavering refusal to grant Gordon clemency is a testament to his intolerance of slavery.  At noon on February 21, 1862, Nathaniel Gordon was brought to the gallows in New York City. Both the death warrant and Lincoln’s refusal to commute the sentence were read aloud, and then he was hanged. The article from Harper’s Weekly attached as a pdf describes the case, Gordon’s attempted suicide, and the execution. Within a year of Gordon’s execution multiple anti-slavery measures were enacted, including the abolition of slavery in Washington, DC, the Second Confiscation Act, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The movie will tell the stories of Anastácia and Gordon in parallel, leading to the point where she witnesses his trial and conviction.  It will be historical fiction strongly rooted in actual events and the very important history of the Congo, mid Atlantic Slave Trade, 19th century Brazil, and the U.S. during the Abraham Lincoln presidency. Anastácia is the quintessential heroine, managing to remain a compassionate and inspiring individual despite horrific treatment. Ultimately, she will return to Brazil in search of her family who, with all the slaves on board the Camargo, were thrown overboard by Gordon's crew during Camargo's pursuit by the Brazilian Navy. Deep-sixing the living evidence was a common method used by slavers to evade capture and possible prosecution. The drama we are developing will highlight what are several  ongoing issues, conditions unacceptable in a contemporary "enlightened" society and evolved civilization.  Further, and of signifcant note, during the mid 19th century Captain Gordon had evaded capture in Brazil.  The country's then emperor, Dom Pedro II, was an abolitionist, major supporter of the arts & sciences, whose efforts to stop the practice of slavery predates Abraham Lincoln's mandate and America's Civil War.  Brazil is in possession of artifacts from Gordon's Camargo, and the country will participate in the production of the movie.  Additionally, we have located decendants of the slaves transported aboard the Camargo who survived and found a life in Brazil.

Upon completion of the first draft of the screenplay, John Kuri submitted it to the annual Shore Scripts Feature Screenplay competition.  Two months later we received the following:
Congratulations!   Your script, Anastácia, is advancing to the Quarter-Finalist round of the Shore Scripts Feature Contest (2019). After two rounds of reading, we have narrowed down the scripts to approximately 10% of all entries that have made it through as Quarter-Finalists.  Please find your Quarter-Finalist Laurel attached.

"Shore Scripts has some of the highest caliber industry judges of any screenwriting contest in the world.  Their winning feature scripts are read by 37 of their Oscar, Bafta, Emmy, Golden Globe & Cannes award-winning judges. Shore Scripts is proud to have set up Louis Ackerman’s feature script with Blumhouse. The film was released on HULU – Nov 2nd, 2018. Louis was Shore’s 2015 Feature Grand Prize Winner."  thescriptlab.com

Aventuras Produções e Edições Educativas Ltda of Brazil has provided location surveying, introductions to potential participants, and certain Brazilian archaeological information.

Since 1995 Aventuras has been producing Cinema, TV & Web about Scientific Expeditions, Adventure, Ecotourism, and Environmental Actions, providing a greater understanding of human nature and what it means to be Brazilian. In 2017 Aventura's owners, Yuri Sanada and Vera RP Sanada, as producers of Amazon Adventure 3D, an IMAX film in wide release, received the GSCA Award (Giant Screen Cinema Association) Best Film Award.