Manderlay lay on a lonely plain somewhere in the deep south of the USA. It was in the year of 1933 that Grace and her father had left the township of Dogville behind them. By chance their cars stop in the state of Alabama in front of a large iron gate bearing a thick chain and a padlock. Beside the gate, a dead oak tree towers over a heavy boulder with Manderlay hewn in monumental letters into the granite. Just as Grace, her father and his men are about to leave after a short break and a quick lunch, a young black woman runs up to the car. She knocks on Grace's window. She hammers at the glass in despair. Ignoring her father's advice to leave others to their own affairs, Grace follows the girl through the gates of Manderlay and there, she finds a group of people living as if slavery had not been abolished seventy years earlier, with white masters and black slaves. Grace believes that she has a duty to make it up to the slaves for injustices they have suffered at the hands of her kind: we brought them here, we abused them and made them what they are,' as she argues to her father, and she decides that having liberated Manderlay, she will remain at the plantation until she has seen them through their first harvest.
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