Last week at the Toronto Film Festival, scenes from the premiere of “12 Years A Slave” caused audience members to walk out of the theater due to torturous beating scenes. Despite the backlash, the star of the movie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, defended its violence. He told The Independent it was vital for the film’s viewers to see a clear depiction of Solomon Northup’s autobiography, which shares the same title, on the big screen.
“Solomon’s story is full of [violence] but also full of beauty and hope and human respect and dignity. With Steve [McQueen, the director] there to guide it, we weren’t afraid to explore all that, and go to those dark places.”
“12 Years A Slave” tells the tale of a born-freed man, Solomon Northup, who was a musician in Saratoga Springs, New York. Northup was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. The movie opens up with Northup being beaten 15 times with a bat and then whipped by his kidnappers. The film also features slave lynchings, and most notoriously, a gruesome scene featuring a plantation owner who strung a slave to a post to beat her a total of 41 times.
Although some audience members left the Toronto premiere, “12 Years A Slave” still received a 10-minute standing ovation. Based on that response, many expect the film to receive numerous Oscar nominations. Director Steve McQueen told the audience the reason he wanted to adapt Northup’s story into a motion picture:
“I wanted to see that story on film, It’s that simple.”
Actor Brad Pitt who had a role in the film also served as a producer and said:
“Steve was the first to ask why there have not been more films on the US history of slavery. It’s a question it took a Brit to ask.”
Though we doubt Steve McQueen was the first person who thought the narratives of slaves needed to be heard and served justice, we do know he had the access to provide a platform for the terrifying experience Northup endured. McQueen is a black British director, his nation — England — had a different relationship with slavery than the United States. England abolished slavery in their colonies before America and implemented colonialism instead. Perhaps if a black American filmmaker had a similar approach, media outlets in the States would have viewed “12 Years A Slave” as an exaggeration of the slave experience.
Below is a trailer of “12 Year A Slave.” What do you think about the film?
’12 Years A Slave’ will be in theaters October 18! Will you go watch the film?