Where to begin with this one…
All public record but a little of my own background again: both sides of my family are from rural Louisiana. Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my father taking me to visit my great-grandmother and his aunt, and their small (I mean, three room small) house out in the country. And I have memories of my father and my uncle showing me the plantation where they would pick pecans for spare change. On the other side, some of my favorite memories are of my cousins and I running through the sugar cane fields across from my grandfather’s house. And when you’re, you know, 6, the lesson is ‘respect your elders’. Then you get older and you start connecting some dots. And if your’e naturally curious like me, you start connecting A LOT of dots…
I open with that to say that I heard ’12 Years a Slave’ was ‘shocking and uncomfortable’, but I didn’t cry or turn away from the screen. I was visibly moved, maybe…twice? My overall attitude through the whole thing was pretty much, ‘Yeah, that’s what happened. That was pretty normal.’
BUT THAT’S ME, with my (knowledge of my) legacy and film nerd attitude. On the other hand, there was a hell of a lot of sniffling and audible gasping and shock running through the rest of the theater.
The ‘based on a true story’ follows a freeman from the North who is sold into slavery and what he sees/endures in the South when his family and all of his humanity is stripped away. It’s a great script by John Ridley, Steve McQueen directs the story without pulling any punches. Chiwetel Ejiofor holds it down as the main character, and Michael Fassbender completely nails it as the main villain of this story.
I’ve deliberately turned off my normal sarcasm so you’ll know I think this is a must see film. Don’t necessarily hold me to this (yet) but my gut feeling is this needs to be on the very short list with Malcolm X as ‘films that give you a very good sense of the black experience in America’. Again this is my mind working, but without hitting you over the head with it, I thought the film had elements in there you could point at and say ‘this is why so many of things that black people still get sensitive about, from attacks on Obama (that don’t feel politically based) to interracial relationships to how Islam became an attractive alternative to Christianity in radical black circles, it ALL can be traced back to slavery. All of it.
And it never feels like ‘a history lesson,’ it’s the story of one man overcoming impossible odds. Well done. OK, you can tell I enjoyed this film right?
Viva Prestige Movie Season!
Have a good weekend!