12 Years a Slave @ The Ross

The Look of Freedom Alonzo (Cameron Zeigler), Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor),  Margaret (Quvanzhané Wallis), and Anne (Kelsey Scott) Northup in New York

The Look of Freedom
Alonzo (Cameron Zeigler), Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Margaret (Quvanzhané Wallis), and Anne (Kelsey Scott) Northup in New York

Freedom. It never is given without a fight. Even if you were born as a free person of color moving and having your being in the United States of America, that birthright could be ripped from you at a moment’s notice, and from thenceforth, you had to work to take it back. 12 Years A Slave delves into this very real fact of life during antebellum slavery. Directed by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave is a poignant quest. The film is based on the slave narrative of the same name written by Solomon Northup in 1853.



Needless to say, the story is brutal as it courses through the vein of the innocuous plantation regime. The film exposes the time wherein people salivated over the ownership of African flesh not only for labor and economic gain; also, McQueen draws out the psychological and emotional pleasure plantation owners enjoyed in having full possession of and the rights and title to the African body. Some easily judge this as insanity; but I strongly maintain that this practice is a part of sanity no human being should ever want to touch […] again.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars, and his portrayal of Northup marks clearly his burden of representation. Yes, Northup is front-and-center but it is quite obvious in Ejiofor’s furrowed brow that he is telling the story of thousands who labored within that plantation system—some for life.

Patsey (Lupita Nyong'o) pleads with Northup to end her life.

Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) pleads with Northup to end her life.

All of the usual suspects are dramatized to the fullest extent: capture and kidnap; rape of slave women; slave chains; the slave ship; the auction block; the separation of families; the ubiquitous crack of the overseer’s whip, and death. In each instance, McQueen dares us to look away.

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12 Years a Slave plays through November 28 at the Ross in Lincoln.

Listen to review of 12 Years a Slave on NET’s Friday Live! @ 45:56


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