Film Friday: “12 Years A Slave”

What can I say about this film that has not been said already? Yes, it is hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and devastatingly real. If you come out of the theater with a dry eye or a gut that has not been punched, may I suggest therapy? “12 Years a Slave” is an unflinching look at one man’s struggle with the semi-life given to him unfairly.

Based on the book of the same name, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man of color in Upstate New York, which means he was not born a slave. Although, he is mildly aware of the slave economy system, freedom is what he knows. He has a loving family of a wife and two children, and he has a mastery of the violin, which earns him admiration. However, under the guise of working in a circus with two charlatans, he is kidnapped into a world that he only knew for afar.

Landing in Washington, D.C., Northup is thrust into slavery preparation. Stripped of his clothing and his liberties, his introduction includes severe beatings, paltry food, and tattered clothing. He meets people aware of their situation; yet, he refuses to assuage the naïve possibility of regaining his freedom immediately.

Once in Louisiana, Northup’s personal narrative becomes that of Platt – just Platt -, a runaway slave from Georgia. From the slave marketplace, as though humans were cars or horses, he is purchased by William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a man deemed as “good”. In truth, everyone involved in the slave trade had murk

What can I say about this film that has not been said already? Yes, it is hard-hitting, heartbreaking, and devastatingly real. If you come out of the theater with a dry eye or a gut that has not been punched, may I suggest therapy? “12 Years a Slave” is an unflinching look at one man’s struggle with the semi-life given to him unfairly.

Based on the book of the same name, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free man of color in Upstate New York, which means he was not born a slave. Although, he is mildly aware of the slave economy system, freedom is what he knows. He has a loving family of a wife and two children, and he has a mastery of the violin, which he is admired for locally. He is respected, and in turn, he respects. However, under the guise of working in a circus with two charlatans, he is kidnapped into a world that he only knew for afar.

Landing in Washington, D.C., Northup is thrust into slavery preparation. He is stripped of his clothing and his liberties via severe beatings, paltry food, and tattered clothing. He meets individuals aware of their situation; yet, he refuses to assuage the naive possibility of regaining his freedom immediately.

Once in Louisiana, his name is changed to Platt – just Platt. He is told that he is a runaway slave from Georgia. His personally narrative has been erased illegally. From the slave marketplace, as though humans were cars or horses, he is purchased by William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a man deemed as “good”. In truth, everyone involved in the slave trade had murky characters. However, to call slavers good, is a big stretch. Ford is called a “good” man because he does not believe in whipping or torturing his slaves; although, he employs unknowingly those that do believe in such mistreatment. Master Ford is wounded morally by his participation (including his agreement in separating a mother from her children) as it takes its toll on him.

After a major event on Ford’s plantation, “Platt” finds himself sold to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a man of evil fortitude. Epps is a morally corrupt man that enjoys “nigger breaking” and other means of cruelty. He is renown for his character. Out of the frying pan and into the fire goes “Platt”. It doesn’t take long to see why Epps has earned his infamy. In his corner is his wife, Mary (Sarah Paulson). She is close to matching the cruelty of her husband, fueled by the jealousy of her husband’s obsession with Patsy, a young slave woman, on the plantation. Unlike “Platt”, Patsy’s resilience is next to nothing. She is raped, overworked, and, in a fateful scene, whipped to an inch of her life.

Throughout his years at Epps plantation, he sees continuously the various means of survival in this cruel system. He meets Mrs. Shaw (Alfre Woodard), a former slave turned companion for Mr. Shaw, a slaver. Their arrangement is a rare one. She ignores his amorous advances toward slave women, and in turn, she never feels the hard work of the plantation again.

Through a chance meeting with a Canadian carpenter, Bass (Brad Pitt), “Platt” becomes Solomon Northup and regains his freedom, while returning to his life and a new path into abolition.

As a viewer, I was gut punched. I shed tears. I could not turn away without feeling an inch of the devastation that the slave economy brought to the United States. It’s one of America’s unforgiven sins, and to see it on scene without the sugarcoating and far easier portrayals of past movies exploring slavery, is one that should be experienced.

There are some detractors that do not want to see the film succeeded because they prefer the past left alone. However, director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley takes us on an uncomfortable journey that is required to see how the past has not been forgotten, but continues to shape our present and, hopefully, not our future.

Go see it.y characters. However, to call slavers good, is a big stretch. Ford is a “good” man because he does not believe in whipping or torturing his slaves; although, he employs unknowingly those that do believe in such mistreatment. Wounded morally by his participation (including his agreement in separating a mother from her children), Ford realizes its continuous toll on him.

After a major event on Ford’s plantation, “Platt” finds himself sold to Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), a man of evil fortitude. Epps is a morally corrupt man who enjoys “nigger breaking” and other means of cruelty. He is renowned for his character. Out of the frying pan and into the fire goes “Platt”. It doesn’t take long to see why Epps has earned his infamy. In his corner is his wife, Mary (Sarah Paulson). She is close to matching the cruelty of her husband, fueled by the jealousy of her husband’s obsession with Patsy, a young slave woman, on the plantation. Unlike “Platt”, Patsy’s resilience is next to nothing. Raped, overworked, and, in a fateful scene, whipped to an inch of her life, she aware of an non-existing light at the end of the tunnel.

Throughout his years at Epps plantation, he sees continuously the various means of survival in this cruel system. He meets Mrs. Shaw (Alfre Woodard), a former slave turned companion for Mr. Shaw, a slaver. Their arrangement is a rare one. She ignores his amorous advances toward slave women, and in turn, she never feels the hard work of the plantation again.

Through a chance meeting with a Canadian carpenter, Bass (Brad Pitt), “Platt” becomes Solomon Northup and regains his freedom, while returning to his life and a new path into abolition.

As a viewer, I was gut punched. I shed tears. I could not turn away without feeling an inch of the devastation that the slave economy brought to the United States. It’s one of America’s unforgiving sins, and to see it on the film screen without the sugar coating and far easier portrayals of past movies exploring slavery, is one that must be experienced.

There are some detractors that do not want to see the film succeeded because they prefer the past left alone. However, director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley takes us on an uncomfortable journey that requires its viewing participants to see how the past has not been forgotten, but continues to shape our present and, hopefully, not our future.

Go see it.

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