12 Years a Slave
Production year: 2013
Runtime: 133 mins
Directors: Steve McQueen
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano
‘12 Years a Slave’ was one film that I was close to denouncing and vowing never to watch. Why you may ask? Just like ‘Avatar‘(of which I have never watched) each year produces the ‘must watch’ film the one film that we all race to the cinema to view so that we can have a moment to look up from our phones and tablets and share a conversation, moreover this is a film about a heavy subject the unspoken sins of slavery bought to light by a British Director.
Aside from all that I watched the film on the 12th on January, made the trip to the cinema with two other friends and situated myself in the Vue Xtreeme to experience the Oscar tipped movie, the cinema audience as many others would mention was predominantly Caucasian, that only made some scenes that a group let out a nervous laugh seem misplaced. I cannot say that I loved any aspect of the film am someone who is drawn in by cinematography but I didn’t feel that the film visually took me anywhere the opening sequence editing being the only part that challenge the liner development of the piece. Chitewel Ejiofor (Solomon Northup) performance is somehow overshadowed by Lupita Nyong’o (Patsey) in the press so I found that I spent a longer time waiting to see her on screen while yearning for Solomon Northup to regain his freedom.
At the end we sat and was disappointed that I felt that the piece hadn’t stirred up anything in me, at no point was I moved to tears (while my friend sitting to the right of me shed a few) nor did I feel that McQueen had moved me to aspire to tell the slave narrative; having said that it does not mean that I am removed from the reality of the history that the images depicted; however violent and harsh speak to the struggles of the slaves who were sold into the trade. One question did arise why did we not see any real attempt to escape, were all the slaves content with slavery being their ultimate fate?
In all this was a chance to really unmask and take the slave narrative on film to another level ultimately the picture produced amazing characteristic representation but failed to unearth an in-depth well rounded depiction of the emotional turmoil that Solomon Northup encountered in his years in slavery.
I guess the problem I have is taking a real story and making it into a cinematic picture a form of escapism and entertainment. What is ‘12 Year a Slave’ purposes? To educate on the history of slavery or to create Hollywood stars and win awards? Or do the two come hand in hand in this case?