Masterfully done cinematography, a haunting musical score and powerful acting tell the story of Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a respectable middle-class family man who lives with his wife and two children in Saratoga, New York in 1841, when he is lured away and eventually abducted into slavery. Solomon is sold and resold, from one plantation to another. Through his eyes we see mothers separated forever from their children, women abused sexually, people whipped until the flesh peels from their backs for no reason but the egos of the owners. Ignorant, insecure and vindictive individuals in arbitrary positions of power have ultimate control over the lives, happiness and health of others – by “owning” them. Being a slave means being subject to the whims of the lowest of the low characters the human race has spawned: slavers.
This movie is based in part of the memoir of Solomon Northrup, which he wrote after he was able to escape from captivity by proving his freedom in 1853, twelve years after he was abducted. The film illustrates in brilliant colors the terrible injustice our own system of government inflicted on the slaves.
I cannot imagine how it is possible, after viewing 12 Years a Slave, to wrap yourself in the Confederate flag now and today and protest for secession of Texas, or march in front of the White House. Do these people really yearn for those conditions to return? What does the Confederate flag mean to them?
12 Years a Slave reminded me Django Unchained, another masterpiece about slavery, but it has a different, more emotionally intense approach.
Watching two hours and 15 minutes of that took a lot out me, but it is a story that must be told, over and over again.
This is particularly true in a world where human trafficking in 2013 is alive and thriving. There are slaves right now working in factories all over the world. There are slaves in Europe and the United States providing sexual services against their will. There are slaves all over the middle east working in households for no pay, 18 hours a day. We ignore this while we post cat pictures on Facebook.
12 Years a Slave brought forth all these images in me, and they are not going away. I predict there will be many awards for this movie. It is definitely one of the best, most powerful ones I have seen this year.