12 YEARS A SLAVE premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August. Then went on to play at The Toronto International Film Festival and New York Film Festival. The critics loved it and it immediately became the Best Picture front-runner. It opened in October in limited theaters, with a wide release date scheduled for December. 12 YEARS was testing really well and the decision was made to start gradually releasing it wide going into awards season.
12 YEARS A SLAVE was Directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor brilliantly plays Solomon Northup, a New York State free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841. He was sold as a slave and worked on plantations in Louisiana for twelve years before he was saved and released.
While receiving much acclaim, 12 YEARS has its detractors. Any movie that is declared Best Picture early in the season will be attacked. Oscar bloggers and critics want to bring it down. They have an obligation to keep the Oscar race discussion going mush longer than October. Some of the criticism was that 12 YEARS was a story about one thing, slavery. With one hero to root for and not about the millions of other slaves at the time. Some critics complained that it played to “white guilt” and made people feel bad about themselves. It doesn’t teach us anything we don’t already know. A few Academy members said out loud that they had no interest in watching another that shows the horror of slavery. We know that the Oscar voters are, on average, older white guys. The discussion then turns to racism within the Academy. If Steve McQueen wins Best Director, he will be the first black Director EVER to do so. It will also be the first film about slavery to win in this category since GONE WITH THE WIND in 1939. This raises many questions..Is racism so rampant in the Academy that they will never vote for McQueen? Is the Academy too white? Does it really matter that 12 YEARS A SLAVE the best movie of the year? Of course, we all like to think that racism doesn’t play a part in the Oscar race, but they don’t have a great track record for awarding black filmmakers or actors. They have a shot this year at making history!
(some spoilers) Putting all of those obstacles aside, 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a brilliant film. Sorry people, slavery was brutal and this movie shows a part of the real horror that was the darkest time for America. 12 YEARS has some of the most powerful scenes ever shown in a movie. Slave owners auctioning off their “property” who are all naked for the buyers to see all of what they are buying. The more fit or attractive a slave was meant they worked harder than the others and were much more sexually attractive to owners. A mother pleading they don’t separate her from her children. And of course they do, despite her wails of agony. Solomon is forced to play his violin as background music throughout. Trying to drown out the crying mother. There is not a better scene in a movie this year than when Solomon is hanging from a tree, barely able to keep his feet in the mud to prevent himself from being hanged. The scene ends with 2 minutes of Solomon writhing around to stay alive, while children are heard playing in the background. Other slaves walk by knowing to keep quiet as they could be next. These are the scenes that make a Best Picture.
Major Awards So Far
Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama,
Toronto IFF People’s Choice
Producers Guild of America: tied with GRAVITY
Critics’ Choice for Best Picture
Nine Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director
This scene is why Lupita Nyong’o will win Best Supporting Actress .
Chiwetel Ejiofor may not win Best Actor, but it is clear he deserves a nomination.
Best Supporting Actor nominee Michael Fassbender
This is 12 YEARS A SLAVE