There are two horrific crimes committed against humanity that should’ve never occurred…The Holocaust and Slavery in America. It is bad enough to be exterminated because a group of individuals have decided you are not fit to exist in society as an equal, but to be dragged across continents by sea chained, naked and treated like an animal is absolutely unforgivable. So, when on December 18, 1865 President Abraham Lincoln freed slaves in America through the Emancipation Proclamation, people of color thought they were free to live as equal human beings.
However, there were some Americans that could not accept that law and resulted in “blackbirding”. Blackbirding was an illegal method of recruitment/kidnapping of freed slaves in the North and transporting them to the South where slavery was still legal in some states.
This is how the audience is introduced to the true story of Solomon Northrup, a freed man living in 1800’s New York, who becomes a victim to blackbirding and spends 12 Years As A Slave. Based on the book by the same name written by Northrup himself in 1853 (less than a year after he was rescued from his accidental slavery) and adapted into a screenplay by John Ridley, this film is very uncomfortable to watch, but necessary. How is it possible that we have been taught in America everything there is to know about Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman, but NO MENTION of a man who endured such an injustice within our own history? I don’t know and I don’t care, however, I am extremely grateful to Director Steve McQueen for finally bringing it to our attention.
There are many wonderful performances given by this cast brilliantly put together once again by the marvelous Casting Director Francine Maisler. However, it the performances of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrup and recent NYU graduate Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey that will break your heart. I expect both of these names to be tossed about during the upcoming awards season. We even see a glimpse of last years’ Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis and another breakout performance from last year’s hit film “Pariah” by Adepero Oduye. As much as I loathed their characters, Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Dano were extraordinary!
Slavery has always been an uncomfortable subject here in America, mostly due to the wounds left that have yet to heal in this country. Begin the healing by going to see 12 Years A Slave, which opens in theaters on October 18th.