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12 Years a Slave


One moment, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man living in antebellum New York as a violinist with a wife and two children. The next he’s shackled in chains, bewildered, and brutally whipped for daring mentioning his previous identity as Northup. He is now Platt, a runaway Georgian slave up for the slave market.
In 12 years a slave, a film directed by Steve McQueen, we follow Northup’s odyssey into hell, as he is passed from master to master. One master, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), is relatively benevolent, and gives Northup a violin as compensation for engineering a new waterway. The other is Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), an alcoholic psychopath who ruthlessly abuses his slaves on a regular basis, whipping them until their flesh and blood ooze from their backs.
But beware – there are some stomach-churningly graphic scenes in this film. In one scene, Northup is hung on a tree with his feet barely touching the ground, forcing him to perform a surreal tip toe dance as he struggles to hang on to life. But everyone else in the farm maintains a strictly indifferent attitude towards his struggle. The audience is then left feeling increasingly uncomfortable watching the contrasting attitudes of Northup and the people in the farm as time goes by.
“12 Years a Slave” won the Academy Award for best picture, making it the first movie from a black director to win the film industry’s highest honor in 86 years of the Oscars. It is also a movie about slavery, which is a topic largely untouched by the film industry. Quentin Tarantino, director of Django Unchained, another film about slavery, reportedly said to Steve Mcqueen “there can be more than one film about slavery.”
All in all, 12 years a slave is not a movie for you if you can’t handle the unequivocal truth about slavery. There are no sugar coatings to McQueen’s depiction of America’s original sin. Instead, the 12 years a slave is a harrowing film that reminds us of a brutal, dehumanizing period in American history.

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