A Tale of Twelve Years in Two Hours

A True Story of Slave Labor Brought Back to Life

Megumi Kamikawa

Staff Writer

    Twelve Years a Slave, a film released on November 1, 2013, filled theaters everywhere with an accurate, tear-jerking representation of the reality among slave laborers in the 1800s.

    The film begins in Saratoga Springs, New York in the year of 1841, focusing on Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his family of a wife and two children.

    As a free man and talented violinist, Northup is offered a two-week tour gig by a pair named McNairy and Killam. After spending one night in the city of Washington, Northup woke up the next day to find himself kidnapped and chained to the floor, trapped as a slave for the next twelve years of his life.

    Throughout the film, every cast member remained true to their roles, fully portraying the desperation and cruelty found within slave labor. Northup himself had experienced variations of slaves, owners and masters. The slave owners introduced ranged from the overall kind William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the ruthless plantation owner, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).

Starting in 1841, Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave biography is published in 1853, the year of his release. Director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley wanted to create a film about the American slave era. McQueen’s wife discovered Northup’s novel, and thus influenced the entire movie. PC: Megumi Kamikawa
Starting in 1841, Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave biography is published in 1853, the year of his release. Director Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley wanted to create a film about the American slave era. McQueen’s wife discovered Northup’s novel, and thus influenced the entire movie.
PC: Megumi Kamikawa

    Some of the other equally talented actors included those of the slave characters Eliza (Adpero Oduye), a devastated mother separated from her two children, and Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), a fellow  slave working on Epps’ plantation.

    The truth behind Northup’s kidnapping into slavery exposed the different aspects and procedures of slavery and how it was once carried about. His tale of enduring twelve years of torture was brimming with the horrifying experiences of what was once acceptable in society. One could hear the audience’s gasps with every painful lash and scream of agony.

    Although rated R for some racial terms and its violent or explicit scenes, Twelve Years a Slave is a brutally painful and honest historical movie. Its rating is a fair warning for those less accustomed to certain obscenities, but these elements brought together the unjustified realism of slave labor.

    By seeing and hearing such experiences through the perspective of a victimized individual, the actuality of such events further deepens the shame of the previous actions society once accepted wholeheartedly. Overall, the film’s realism executes the struggle of Northup’s journey incredibly well.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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