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Film Review – 12 Years a Slave – 4 1/2 stars

Scene from the slave market in New Orleans

Scene from the slave market in New Orleans

It’s been 2 months since my husband and I last spent an evening together without our children so we hired a babysitter yesterday evening to see the film 12 Years a SlaveThe film was interesting, agonising, saddening, revolting, angering but certainly not romantic! The film is based on a true story written by a free African American man who was drugged and kidnapped in Washington then sold into slavery in the south of America. We witness dreadful scenes of cruelty and disgusting indifference to human suffering as Solomon moves from estate to estate over a 12 year period, unable to prove his freedom or contact his family.

The film sees director Steve McQueen select Michael Fassbender again for a leading role (as in Hunger and Shame). The acting is excellent and thoroughly believable, especially by Lupita Nyong’o as the heart-wrenchingly misused character Patsey and Fassbender as Mr Epps. Fassbender is thoroughly captivating with his drunken antics as the disgustingly cruel ‘slave breaker’ and portrays a complex character. Brad Pitt is one of the producers and not surprisingly he plays the small but crucial role of the Canadian emancipist who brings about Solomon’s emancipation.

The film is quite long and at all times difficult to watch (I struggled to swallow small sips of wine during the film) because McQueen is unflinching in his depiction of the depravity of slave ‘owners’ and traders in America in the 1800s. Well done to McQueen and it’s certainly an important portrayal of slavery. I was unable to figure out why Solomon chose to go to Washington with two shifty-looking circus touts. Presumably he was motivated by the money they offered but his motivation was not explained.

The film made me ponder the history of slavery and I read here in Richard Donkin’s The History of Work:

The economies of the greatest classical civilizations – those of Greece and Rome – were founded on the most uncivilized of human conditions: slavery. For hundreds of years in Greece and Rome slavery was the most common form of manual labor.

The Cambridge-based historian Moses Finley suggested that five societies were founded on slavery:

  1. United States;
  2. Brazil;
  3. The Caribbean;
  4. Rome; and
  5. Greece.

Next I obviously pondered modern slavery with:

  • people being forced to pick cotton for little or no money in Central Asia;
  • people being trafficked worldwide as sex slaves (highlighted in the USA during the SuperBowl);
  • people being trafficked for domestic slaves;
  • people being used as construction work slaves; and
  • people being used in the hospitality industry as slaves.

Why do so many humans worldwide intrinsically exploit other people?

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4 comments on “Film Review – 12 Years a Slave – 4 1/2 stars

  1. peakcontent
    February 12, 2014

    Great post, impressive!

  2. Pingback: Book Review – The Secret Life of Bees – 2 1/2 stars | strivetoengage

  3. Pingback: 12 Years A Slave – Lighting Review | 12 Years A Slave – Lighting Review

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