ON SCREEN: Chiwetal Ejifor on set of Twelve Years a Slave
ACCORDING TO megalomaniac director Quentin Tarantino, his film Django Unchained is single-handedly responsible for starting the most meaningful discussion of slavery in 30 years.
The Pulp Fiction filmmaker can take credit for giving cinema many things, but discussion on black folk’s history of oppression is not one of them.
Whatever your feelings on his spaghetti Western slave revenge drama – it cannot go unnoticed that the story is not only told through the lens of a white man, but it’s also pure fantasy.
This year, however, another film about slavery is due for release from Britain’s preeminent black director Steve McQueen CBE, and African American writer John Ridley (Red Tails/Three Kings) which might be more promising in terms of historical value.
Twelve Years A Slave is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a black musician born free, but kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South.
It boasts a star-studded cast including British Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor in the lead role, Sherlock Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Shame star Michael Fassbender and Hollywood heart throb Brad Pitt, who also produced the movie.
Nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest person to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, also stars.
First published in 1853, the best-selling memoir of the same name sold 30,000 copies in the US ahead of the American Civil War.
In a review of the script, IndieWire blogger Vanessa Martinez wrote: “McQueen’s script is filled with uncompromising realism of a history some of us would rather not revisit.
“You’re transported back in time, and you understand why Solomon makes the choices he makes; the script accomplishes this in order to give Solomon’s character a great balance between being subordinate in order to survive, yet rebellious and defiant in a passive aggressive way. And although Solomon is a seemingly non-emotive character, his survival strategy, his pain and inner turmoil are deeply understood and felt.”
DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen
Twelve Years a Slave is considered one of the most detailed accounts of the daily lives of enslaved people on Louisiana’s cotton plantations, such as their diet and living conditions as well as the relationship between master and slave.
2013 also marks the 160th anniversary of the book’s release.