11 November 2013 1:15 PM, PST | Vulture | See recent Vulture news »

Watching Steve McQueen’s widely acclaimed 12 Years a Slave, you may find yourself wondering why it took so long for someone to film Solomon Northup’s remarkable life story. After all, the dramatic story is based on a memoir that was published way back in 1853. Then you find out that it has been filmed before, by one of America’s most legendary multi-hyphenate artists, the photographer-writer-director-musician Gordon Parks (Shaft, Leadbelly). Produced for public television, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey was broadcast on American Playhouse. (Out-of-print videos of it sell for a lot of money nowadays, but you can stream it on Amazon Instant, under a different title.) As a made-for-tv movie from the mid-eighties, it had a very modest budget and could never come close to the brutality of McQueen’s film. Yet Parks’s film is beautiful in its own right, lacking the ferocious immediacy of McQueen’s work, but »


- Bilge Ebiri

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