12 Years a Slave

By Daria Radler

When Salomon Northup (Chi­we­tel Ejio­for) accepts a two-week job offer as a musi­cian from two white men with whom he trav­els from Upstate New York to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., he does not expect that the last evening spent in friend­ly com­pa­ny will mark the turn­ing point of his life. Beat­en, robbed, and scared, he awak­ens in a small cell the next morning—his iden­ti­ty no longer of inter­est or impor­tance. All of the sud­den, he is a sim­ple black man, a ‘nig­ger’ who is giv­en the new name Platt, a slave who appar­ent­ly ran away from his own­er in Geor­gia. He spends twelve years at dif­fer­ent plan­ta­tions in Louisiana, far away from his fam­i­ly and old life, doing hard phys­i­cal labor along­side oth­er slaves while still hold­ing on to his hope and belief of return­ing home one day.

Based on the 1853 mem­oir of Northup and award­ed three Acad­e­my Awards for Best Pic­ture, Best Sup­port­ing Actress, and Best Adapt­ed Screen­play in 2014, 12 Years a Slave por­trays the bru­tal his­to­ry and deep impact of slav­ery in North Amer­i­ca. Fierce­ly embrac­ing a sto­ry that demands to be told, screen­writer John Riley craft­ed a nar­ra­tive that builds in inten­si­ty and emo­tion for over two hours. Along­side Steve McQueen, the first black direc­tor who has ever received an Acad­e­my Award for Best Pic­ture, and an incred­i­ble cast, the final film is as over­whelm­ing as it is com­pelling – simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a mas­ter­piece of dra­mat­ic sto­ry­telling and a con­stant reminder of the rawest out­bursts of bru­tal­i­ty in human nature.

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