An unflinching look at slavery, Steve McQueen’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE is the MUST SEE MOVIE of 2013. With high caliber performances and sumptuous production design, this film is an instant classic. But with that said, it can be a very challenging film to watch, as the brutality and despair are overwhelming at times.
Based on a true story, the film recounts free man Solomon Northrup’s abduction by southern slave traders and his ordeal over the 12 years he was held in bondage. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives an absolutely remarkable portrayal of a man deprived of his freedom. He never allows himself to be broken even when things are at their darkest and retains his dignity even when compelled to do things contrary to his nature to survive. He never allows himself to give up hope that one day he will be reunited with his family.
Over his 12-year tribulation, he is ferried off to a series of owners and through them we witness the not only brutal physical horrors that slaves faced, but the demoralizing psychological ones as well.
The supporting cast includes some of the finest actors working in contemporary cinema and includes such heavy hitters as Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. But kudos must go to Lupita Nyong’o for her absolutely devastating and heartbreaking portrayal of Patsey. Fassbender’s Edwin Epps has an unhealthy infatuation with her and the nature of his affection boarders on the unspeakable. She is a pawn in a game that she cannot possibly win and her suffering is almost too much to bear at times. 
I was fortunate to see this film as part of Jeff Goldsmith’s “Q&A” series and listen to Screenwriter John Ridley’s eye opening and inspiring comments on the development of the film. You can listen to the podcast in its entirety here ( and 12 YEARS A SLAVE is also featured in the new issue of BACKSTORY: 

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I can’t recommend this movie enough. It is an important and powerful film about a dark period of our history that needs to be seen because those who don’t remember the past are doomed to relive it.


12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013)

NOVEMBER 4, 2013