12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, Adepero Oduye & Angela Bassett.
Oscar Nominations: 9Best Picture, Directing (Steve McQueen), Actor in a Leading Role (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Actor in a Supporting Role (Michael Fassbender), Actress in a Supporting Role (Lupita Nyong’o), Writing – Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley), Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design
“I will not fall into despair till freedom is opportune!”
But the strength of the film lies not in its near-perfect ensemble or its fantastic below-the-line production values (from its hard-worn and sweat-stained costumes to its haunting score): it lies in the way it represents the very banality of evil that so easily made the institution of slavery such a natural facet of American life and such a bristling wound of American history. This is nowhere more apparent than in Fassbender and Paulson’s portrayal slave owning couple, whose complicated relationship with Patsy so encapsulates the various ways religion, sexuality, and law came to dominate the rhetoric of slavery. Parting glances, imperious silences, furrowed brows; in the plantations McQueen shows us simple gestures become loaded with hatred and an indignity at slaves’ own sense of self. This is not a grandiose formal exercise where history is re-written for one slave as a revenge western nor is it a mere history lesson; it is an examination of the aching pain of the day-to-day life through the eyes of those who never got to own their own time. gestures that are hard to dismiss when we continue to encounter them into the twenty-first century, when that opportune moment within which to find freedom may yet never come, when all we might witness (from Trayvon to the birther movement, from stop-and-frisk to the prison industrial complex) may still yet send us to despair.