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.