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July 17, 2013
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12 Years A Slave: Trailer

— Posted by Andrea Lestrange

 

Screenplay: John Ridley
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Sarah Paulson, Benedict Cumberbatch

 

 

The third feature film from director Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave starring brilliant Brit Chiwetel Ejiofor, and teamed with a really impressive all-round cast, looks to be an interesting adaptation of Solomon Northup’s real-life story. The trailer is an eye-opening insight into a cruel and unjust history, but without showing just too much of the story.

 

 

 

 

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom.  In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

 

 

Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

 

 

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One thought on “12 Years A Slave: Trailer

  1. There is a scene in the film when a Louisana plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), confronts one of his slaves, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), about her disappearance. Despite her entreaties to explain her brief absence she is subjected to a whipping. As the lash tears into her back members of the audience gasp, some whimper, others cry silently, but all recoil back into their seat horrifyingly transfixed by the terror of the scene, as each crack of the whip brings forth a fine spray of blood. The whole scene is the dark heart of the film and indeed, the heart of darkness of the American slave trade. It is also the most powerful scene in thirty years of filmmaking in a film that is simply a modern masterpiece, and by far the best film you will see this year.

    Therein lies a dichotomy because cinema is about entertainment and 12 Years a Slave is a gruelling watch – a harrowing, unflinching, unsentimental and absorbing examination of the barbarity of slavery. It is emotionally draining and not a film to be viewed for an evening’s entertainment. The director, Steve McQueen, first came to prominence in 1999 when he beat out Tracey Emin to win the Turner Prize and like his artwork, his three films so far – Hunger, Shame, 12 Years a Slave – reflect the same clarity of vision, emotional intensity and economy of thought. 12 Years a Slave is set up as a grim story of survival, the mood is sombre, the tone is dark and the music (Hans Zimmer’s ‘Time’ from Inception) is perfectly suited to a piece that is a metaphor for a journey in hell.

    Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a freeman living in Saratoga, upstate New York in 1841 when he is persuaded to work for a travelling music show in Washington DC and then kidnapped and sold into slavery after a drunken night out. First into the relatively benign hands of a minister, William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), and then onto a drunken and violent plantation owner, Edwin Epps. This is where the film differs slightly from Northup’s autobiographical account of the same name, because he had a second owner, John Tibeats, an irrational and violent man who nearly killed Northup on more than one occasion. Epps was his third owner but in the film, for the sake of economy, Tibeats is portrayed as William Ford’s harrying carpenter (Paul Dano). This is the only detail in the film that differs from the book and astonishingly, the power of the scene in which Patsey is whipped has been diluted by the director, because Northup reports on brine being poured onto her back afterwards – a scene of suffering which even modern audiences would have found too much to bear.

    Steve McQueen is ably served by a fantastic cast and special mentions must be given to Sarah Paulson who plays the pitiless Mistress Epps, Lupita Nyong’O (Patsey) and above all, Michael Fassbender, who brings Edwin Epps to demonic life – a man who is a violent and sadistic bully – whose self loathing, rage and madness is agitated by his lust and abominable treatment of Patsey. A slew of awards including the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor surely beckons for Fassbender and both Ejiofor and Nyong’o will be strongly in the running for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Ejiofor effectively portrays the grim determination and quiet dignity of a man struggling to keep hold of his sanity in order to survive his hellish nightmare, and his sense of discombobulation early in the film is palpable. Nyong’o is the touchstone upon which the cruelties, helplessness and capricious nature of slavery are revealed and you will be left wondering about Patsey’s fate at the end credits. Sadly, you will be left disappointed, consigned as a footnote in history. Both actors deserve recognition for their work.

    12 Years a Slave is the best film ever made about slavery and retrospect has shown that it needed a non-American to make it to avoid the mawkish, reverential and over-sentimental sensibilities that would have weighed the film down if say, Steven Spielberg, had made it (consider ‘Amistad’ as a case in point). The slave narrative has had a long and proud history in the canon of black literature from ‘The Life of William Grimes’ to ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano’ to works by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Beecher Stowe; even Margaret Mitchell’s blockbuster book, ‘Gone with the Wind’, has slavery as its context although it is a shameless apologia to it and literally whitewashes the issue from its pages. I found it personally astonishing then that I had not heard of Solomon Northup’s narrative before the film. The historians Sue Eakin and David Fiske have researched and verified the details of Northup’s life and the minutiae of plantation slavery in his story, so there is no doubt that his ghost written autobiography is a truthful and accurate account of his ordeal. The film’s veracity and honesty is a stark reminder that in America, the issue of slavery must be examined in all its excoriating and shameful detail in the light of day. Without full closure on this issue, I cannot see how the racial divide in American society can begin to be breached, mended and healed for the development of a truly United States of America. My, and presumably, many people’s ignorance of Northup’s story is testimony to the fact that not enough is known or done about revealing the full history of slavery and the unfettered horrors, injustices and brutalities of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

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