Let my people go: Why “12 Years a Slave” was so many critics’ best movie of 2013 Featured

By PRISCILLA OWUSU August 02, 2019 8430 994 comments

Before 12 Years a Slave hit the big screen, people were tired of seeing films telling the stories of slaves. Such stories, one critic said, “have the same storyline with different actors”. The movie directed by Steve Rodney McQueen changed this narrative.

The film was highly received, winning it and its actors many awards, from the Academy Awards’ Best Picture, to Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Riley.

It broke records, too, by winning the Best Picture, making McQueen the first black producer ever to receive the award and the first black director of a Best Picture winner.

The accolades did not end there. The film was given the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Drama, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts recognised it with the Best Film honour and Best Actor for its lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor.

And 12 Years a Slave was later named the 44th greatest film since 2000 in a BBC poll of 177 critics.

True story

Based on the incident-filled, true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom, we see the tragic story of Solomon Northup.

Solomon is a free black man living in New York with his wife and kids in the 1840s. He is a carpenter and a talented violinist. One day, two men approach him and asked if he will accompany them and play his fiddle as they travel to the circus they work for in Washington, DC. Solomon, who sees this as a great opportunity, agrees.

Unfortunately, he is played. He is drugged and wakes up in what he discovers is a slave pen.

Burch, a cruel slave trader, beats Solomon and tells him never to mention that he has been kidnapped, or where he is from. Solomon is scared into submission but is inconsolable. He and several other slaves are taken down South to Louisiana to be sold.

He witnesses at first hand the horror of a slave mother being separated from her children.

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