Since this movie, recently won the well deserved Golden Globe awards and it needs to be seen by as many conscious people as possible I am reposting a review I wrote a few weeks ago.
I found it interesting to say the least that the director of this film is not an American, but a British man with the same name as one of my favorite actors, Steve McQueen. This artist who shows us a glimpse of what slavery was like in the United States in the 19th century, does not tread lightly with our emotions. Watching the movie is like sitting through an intensely passionate roller coaster ride that allows no respite from utter pain, disgust and helplessness.
The movie is based on a biography written by Solomon Northrup in 1853, 8 years before Americans fought each other primarily over an economic system in the south (the Confederate states) that depended on slave labor. Northrup was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. He wrote about his experience in Louisiana plantations for 12 years until he was freed.
I love movies. I especially like independent films because I believe in great storytelling. In this case, fact is stranger than fiction. Why so? Because I wish the movie was fiction. I wish this didn’t really have to happen. I wish this country was based on equality and justice for all, but it wasn’t. Starting with the massacre of thousands of natives, followed by slavery and basing a whole economy on the back of enslaved human beings.
Northrup and the other slaves have to survive the cruelty, hypocrisy and mental illness of their captors. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie takes place when the slave master holds Sunday church services for the slaves with total disregard with what it means to be a Christian. Surely, How can you reconcile, beating, hanging, torturing, raping, and enslaving human beings with being a good Christian? Or a good anything for that matter?
Another powerful scene that I will never forget and almost led me to scream at the screen to STOP! Involves the sufferable female slave Patsey who gets a relentless whipping for requesting a bar of soap from another slave-owner.
I don’t like to watch violent films, but this violence seemed so real and the worst part of it all, is that this actually happened. This was no mission impossible. This was the real deal.
This movie leaves me with more questions than answers. Why does anyone to this day believe some people are like animals they can own? Slavery is still happening today, and millions are still treated as property. There are 29.8 million people living as slaves right now, according to a comprehensive new report issued by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation and about 60,000 of those are in the United States.
I would like to think humanity is better than this. After watching this movie, I am not so sure. It is very easy for many around the world to justify whatever they want to do (in this case enslaving humans) if it fills their pockets. It is up to us to bring them to justice, to care and to honor those who suffered this inhumanity to man, and still do today.
If you want to grow as a person, become more aware, conscious and compassionate. Go see this film.