Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.Written by
On location, shooting in Louisiana took only thirty-five days with one camera, which prompted amazed laughter from an audience of Directors Guild peers, including interviewer Kathryn Bigelow, for the startlingly efficient direction of Steve McQueen. See more »
Northrup's playing for the forced merriment, does not synchronize with the violin sound. See more »
Alright now, y'all fresh niggers. Y'all gonna be in the cuttin' gang.
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Considering the social and economic importance of slavery in America's history, the scarcity of serious films depicting the daily life of slaves in the Confederate States is significant - especially since the after-effects from this shameful episode still echo through the culture. '12 Years a Slave' is based upon the memoirs of Solomon Northup, who endured a hellish period of enslavement in Louisiana, which is backed up by legal records.
The story begins with him living with wife and children in upstate New York as a free man and respected member of his community. After being lured to Washington by a couple of con-artists who promised him work, he was subsequently drugged, locked in chains, viciously beaten, stripped of his identity and shipped to New Orleans to be sold into slavery. Over the next twelve years, he was owned by two men who treated him in contrasting ways. The first was a relatively civilized fellow, but the plantation's half-witted manager was threatened by Northup's superior intelligence. Their mutual dislike produced a dangerously volatile situation, and unwilling to lose his investment, Northup's owner re-sold him to a neighbor. This unbalanced individual regarded his slaves as property to be used for pleasure and profit, which caused them to live in perpetual fear that his capricious moods would flare into sadistic lust or rage at any moment.
It's noteworthy that a British director has become one of the few filmmakers to delve deeply into this subject, and the combination of John Ridley's powerful script and McQueen's directorial skills has inspired exceptional performances from the entire cast. Their dramatization of Northup's experiences is both riveting and uncomfortable to watch, as the film depicts the perverse nature of a society that permitted such a barbaric system. Hopefully it will reach a large US audience, who will learn how a privileged Southern elite cruelly exploited their fellow humans in order to acquire greater wealth for themselves.
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