Verdict: 4.5 / 5
When you calculate it, approximately 11 million Africans were forcibly removed from their continent and homeland, shipped off to be slaves of other countries under the most horrid conditions. Thousands didn’t make it past the vast expanse of the ocean let alone the inhumane conditions and punishment that overwhelmed these people.
This is not an American story alone, this is an African story, an African curse. It won the Academy award because it told our story, it reminded us of the inhumanity, cruelty and disgusting side of our self-seeking and self-righteous nature.
12 Years a Slave follows the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York in the pre-Civil War United States. After being lured into a job opportunity in Washington D.C. Solomon finds himself stripped of his papers, name and freedom. He is forced to accept the new identity of Platt, a runaway slave from Georgia, and is sold in to slavery. As Solomon struggles to maintain his dignity as the property of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) he constantly seeks to regain his identity and freedom.
This is most likely the most inspiring, treacherous, disgusting, anger-stirring and historically accurate film released in recent years. Quentin Tarantino’s Django may have given us the insanity and outrageous face of the slave trade, Steven Spielberg’s The Colour Purple may have brought the emotion and the humanity of the movement but Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave brings it right home. One day free, next day slave. Greed, money and power set above humanity, compassion and kindness. It is not only a historical film but a reflection of the blight of human trafficking that is hiding in the wings of modern life; it stalks us all and pounces on the trusting, innocent and unsuspecting.
This is one of those films where the effectiveness, poignancy and beauty of the film is not held up by a single performance but from the excellence of many. The acting was amongst the best seen on the big screen, from the utter disbelief and betrayal felt by Platt to the torment and abuse of Patsy to the brainwashed prejudice of the white farm owners. The behind-the-scenes players created the perfect backdrop for this carefully crafted film. It is no wonder that it received wide spread acclaim receiving 3 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also became the first film by a black director and producer to receive the Best Picture award.