'The Free State of Jones' Starts Filming; Official Image & Synopsis Revealed

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

Matthew McConaughey experienced quite the career turnaround a couple of years ago. One relegated to mediocre rom-com purgatory, the actor shifted gears and began to choose his projects with a more critical eye, and it's hard to argue with the results. Whether winning an Oscar (Dallas Buyers Club), getting nominated for an Emmy (True Detective) or headlining a major blockbuster (Interstellar), McConaughey's on a roll right now.

His new film, the Civil War drama The Free State of Jones, sounds like it has the potential to continue his hot streak. Based on the true story of Southern farmer Newt Knight (McConaughey), the movie has now officially entered its production stage of development, according to the press release issued by financier STX Entertainment.

Here is the official synopsis for The Free State of Jones:

Set during the Civil War, The Free State of Jones tells the story of defiant Southern farmer Newt Knight, and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers, and with the assistance of local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones. His marriage to a former slave, Rachel, and his subsequent establishment of a mixed race community was unique in the post-war South. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, which distinguished him as a compelling, if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War.

Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) is directing Free State of Jones from his own script, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle), Kerri Russell (The Americans), and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1) are costarring alongside McConaughey in the film. Free State of Jones marks one of the first times STX will be distributing a motion picture, with the company having recently slated the project for a March 11th release date.

Given the pedigree of those involved, the March release date may seem a bit odd; this is a film that has the potential to contend for several major awards, and fall is typically when those "Oscar bait" projects hit the screen. However, this past year saw early releases like The Grand Budapest Hotel (March, as it were) and Boyhood (June) earn Best Picture nominations, meaning that it's not a prerequisite to premiere your film in the fall to be considered.

Moving on, here's the first official look at McConaughey in Free State of Jones:

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The Free State of Jones - First Look

Ross has a limited but diverse résumé when it comes to directing. In regards to scope, the closest thing he's handled in relation to Free State of Jones is the first Hunger Games in 2012, where his style of action filmmaking (namely, excessive shaky cam) was seen as a detriment to the young adult adaptation. Perhaps he has learned a thing or two and will be able to choreograph exciting battle scenes that take advantage of the film's setting with clear and crisp camera work this time around.

However, Free State of Jones sounds like it will rely on heavy bits of character drama as well, where Ross' talents should really shine. His Pleasantville and Seabiscuit were both praised for telling heartfelt stories that touched people emotionally. On paper, the uplifting nature of Free State of Jones (where a common man defies against what he believes is wrong) fits right in that niche. Knight's story may also offer some timely social commentary in addition to thrilling war set pieces.

The Free State of Jones will hit theaters March 11, 2016.

Source: STX Entertainment

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