Let me begin by saying that 12 YEARS A SLAVE was by far one of the hardest films to sit through. From beginning to end, it is completely horrifying. I watch a lot of films that would easily make others uncomfortable. We’re talking everything from IRREVERSIBLE, THE BRIGDE, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, DANCER IN THE DARK, and A SERBIAN FILM. None of those compared to the utter heartbreak I felt watching 12 YEARS. Having said this, I feel like this is the most important & powerful films of the year if not the last ten years.
12 YEARS A SLAVE tells the unbelievable, true tale of a free man (Solomon Northup) kidnapped and sold into slavery. I feel like this is far more appalling than being born a slave. For example, some would rather never know what it feels like to be rich than to have been rich then become poor. It’s the whole “ignorance is bliss” theory.
The film is based on the book written by Solomon just a year after his harrowing experience. It eloquently describes the life of a true slave in the Deep South. As you can imagine, there are not many accounts of day to day life as a slave. Sadly, many people did not live to tell their story or did not have the skills to translate into text. However, Solomon was not born a slave. He was a well educated, sophisticated family man who moonlighted as a talented musician. Yet, none of this matters when you are born with the wrong skin color at the wrong time.
The acting in the film is phenomenal as well as a beautifully written script. I’ve been closely watching director, Steve McQueen because I believe he is poised to become a force to be reckoned with. He was unfairly snubbed a few Oscar seasons ago with his controversial film, SHAME (also starring Fassy). I think 12 YEARS is a big “fuck you” to the Hollywood blowhards who run the film industry. I only pray this film receives the accolades it deserves.
Chiwetel Ejiofor who portrays Solomon Northup deserves an Academy Award, not just a nomination. He captures the pain and suffering of Solomon so vividly it’s scary. The most gut wrenching part of the entire movie was that Solomon never gave up hope. In a position when most people would beg for death, he continued to look for an escape. Although, we see a bittersweet ending, I was more disturbed by the afterthought. What became of Solomon? Can one really just go back to their old life? How does this mentally affect a person? Did his family search for him? How did they adjust and cope? None of these questions may ever be answered as the whereabouts and/or death of Solomon are still unknown. I think this is far more haunting as it leaves another story untold. This film will no doubt become the SCHINDLER'S LIST of our generation.
For once in my life, I am at a loss for words. The last time I felt really emotional watching a film like this was when I saw MILK in the theater. Without getting into a longwinded social commentary, I think this film comes at a time when it is the most relevant. Slavery may not exist anymore, but prejudice and inhuman conditions continue to thrive. Everyday I wake up with the intent to be the best person I can possibly be without coming off as a total asshole. I’m often discouraged reading or hearing about the pitfalls of humanity that constantly occur around the world. I hope that people watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE and realize this disregard for humanity is still prevalent. I hope it will make people think about the choices they make. We need to stop treating others like disposable property.