It’s hard to believe that a film about slavery would be relevant over 150 years after slavery was abolished. Not only is director Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” relevant, it’s a fresh and eye-opening look at a period of our nation’s history that most of us thought we knew well.
The film tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man living in New York, who is kidnapped in Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery in the Deep South.
It’s a sad story made all the more tragic by the fact that it actually happened.
Northup is originally purchased by slave owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), who understands that Northup is more than an average slave, but is too scared to help the wronged man find his way home.
After an incident with the plantation’s foreman, Ford sells Northup to the cruel slave driver Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), and from there it just gets worse.
The film does not sugarcoat an aspect of the horrible times. Even the “kindly” Ford is shown for what he is, a product of the time, who at the end of the day believed his slaves to be less human than himself.
The film shows every uncomfortable and infuriating moment, the camera doesn’t turn away from the pain, even when you really wish it would. McQueen likes to make you look for just a moment longer than you think you can stand.
It’s an uncomfortable movie to watch, at times, but it tells an inspiring story about the strength of the human spirit. It reminds us what we’re capable, both the good and the bad.
…just for fun: