12 Years a Slave – Director, Steve McQueen

One of the better movies I have seen in a long time and one that I think deserves a nod for Best Actor for the lead Chiwetel Ejiofor and Best Picture. The film is based on a true story of a black free man in 1841 New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Georgia where he suffers for 12 years before being rescued. The story is a horrendous portrayal of the life a slave in the south in the middle of the 19th century and it pulls few punches. It was hard to watch at times but worth the effort in the end. The film focusses on Solomon Northrop played by Ejiofor but has some wonderful cameo performances from Benedict Cumberbach, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, and Paul Giamatti. There is a Canadian connection to this movie. Brad Pitt’s character who ultimately rescues Solomon confronts the plantation owner about his treatment of his slaves and the fact that he even has any slaves. Solomon hears this and asks him where he comes from. Pitt’s character answers that he is Canadian which drew some cheers from my audience. Slavery was abolished in Canada in 1833 when Britain officially outlawed it throughout the Empire. Canada became a haven for blacks who were lucky enough to escape the US. Once freed himself, Solomon Northrop became an advocate for abolition and worked the Underground Railway that brought many freed slaves to Canada. We can’t be too proud of our heritage even now but at least we started down the right path before the US. So this film is highly recommended by your humble reviewer. I had to leave before Steve McQueen’s Q and A unfortunately as I had to race from Ryerson to the Scotiabank Theatre in half an hour to see a film about another oppressed people.

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