12 Years A Slave

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(out of 5)


A rarely told tale is that of Solomon Northup, a free musician from Saratoga who was hired by two men for a performance gig and then drugged and sold into captivity in the American south, his name changed and his identity wiped out to prevent him getting back to his own life.  Northup, played with gravity by a riveting , spent twelve years enduring the horrors of a system of human commodification before being restored to his own life and writing his account for publication.  While living in this dark period of history, usually softened by Hollywood in portrayals of the past, he is purchased by as a man who foolishly thinks his soft attitudes towards his slaves means he is not immoral, then is sold to , charismatic and unforgettable yet again in his third Steve McQueen film, as a man proud of his ability to break even the toughest of souls.  Northup witnesses the sadistic cruelty of a master who holds unholy dances in the middle of the night, forcing his slaves to entertain him with mock merriment, and who is obsessed with a beauty among his workers ( making a terrific debut) which inspires a raging hatred from his jealous wife (, who tears any idea of the blissfully ignorant Southern Belle to shreds).  What’s surprising about this visually striking piece is how strong it is despite what is missing:  McQueen is an artist whose visual art background often means he is not interested in the inner conflicts of his characters, with Northup experiencing no ironic moments of grace amid the trauma to which he perpetually objects.  I have no argument against the notion of slavery as pure evil, but the lack of irony to anything the main character goes through also means there is no sense of twelve years actually going by. ‘s Canadian carpenter with an abolitionist heart is the lynch-pin of the entire story, given the opportunity to put his money where his mouth is and forced to decide whether or not he has the courage to back up his convictions; his moral struggle is never seen, these characters never contemplate, they only act, and McQueen has no need to worry about whether or not they lose sleep over it.  His complexity and depth are in his images instead, with horrific treatment of human bodies juxtaposed against the mundane realities of daily life, men hanging from trees or being beaten while right next to them people do laundry or chat.  This acceptance of a monstrous reality is the indictment here and where the film finds its raging and powerful soul, carefully and methodically painting a world where no one connects and where hope dies in the slowly fading embers of a burned letter.  It’s a film that blazes beautifully with a righteous and uncomplicated but never pompous or didactic anger, and those of us angered by movies designed to make white people feel comfortable with the past will relish the opportunity to throw films like The Help and The Patriot (hell, Mississippi Burning too if we’re feeling zealous) onto the garbage heap and leave them to rot.


, , , , ,

USA/United Kingdom, 2013

Directed by

Screenplay by , based on the book Twelve Years A Slave by

Cinematography by

Produced by , , , , , ,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:  TIFF 2013


Cast Tags:  , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , ,


Academy Awards
Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lupita Nyong’o as “Patsey”)
Best Picture (Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Anthony Katagas, producers)
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) (John Ridley)

Nominations
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Chiwetel Ejiofor as “Solomon Northup”)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Fassbender as “Edwin Epps”)
Best Costume Design (Patricia Norris)
Best Directing (Steve McQueen)
Best Film Editing (Joe Walker)
Best Production Design (production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Alice Baker)

Golden Globe Award
Best Motion Picture-Drama

Nominations
Best Performance By An Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Lupita Nyong’o)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Michael Fassbender)
Best Director (Steve McQueen)
Best Screenplay (John Ridley)
Best Original Score-Motion Picture (Hans Zimmer)

New York Film Critics Award
Best Director (Steve McQueen)

Nominations
Best Film
Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender)
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)

Los Angeles Film Critics Awards
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)
Special Citation (The Creative Team)

Nomination
Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

National Society of Film Critics Award Nominations
Best Picture
Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)
Best Director (Steve McQueen)

National Board Of Review Award
Top Ten Films

Screen Actors Guild Award
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (Lupita Nyong’o)

Nominations
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Fassbender)
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

Directors Guild Award Nomination
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film (Steve McQueen)

Independent Spirit Awards
Best Supporting Female (Lupita Nyong’o)
Best Director (Steve McQueen)
Best Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Feature

Nominations
Best Male Lead (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Supporting Male (Michael Fassbender)

British Academy Awards
Best Film
Best Leading Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Nominations
Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender)
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Production Design
David Lean Award for Direction (Steve McQueen)
Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music

Cesar Award Nomination
Best Foreign Film

Toronto Film Critics Award Nominations
Best Picture
Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Supporting Actor (Michael Fassbender)
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)
Best Director (Steve McQueen)

Boston Film Critics Awards
Best Film
Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)
Best Director (Steve McQueen)

Nomination
Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o)


12YearsASlave

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