12 Years A Slave

Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Poster art for 12 Years A SlaveSolomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an African-American born and educated in New York State, is a musician living a gracious life with his family when, in 1841, he’s kidnapped while on tour in Washington, D.C., and sold to the owner of a Louisiana plantation, where he’s traded, loaned out, and used as collateral for a mortgage.

Throughout his brutal years of captivity, he maintains the enraged consciousness of a free man, yet he can’t reveal much of his mind and temperament without incurring the wrath of men and women whose self-esteem is based on the belief that he’s an animal. This true story (based on Northup’s 1853 book) has been turned into a soberly powerful, beautiful film by the British director Steve McQueen, who, after several ritualized features (Hunger and Shame), has powerfully entered the larger world of social reality, landscape, history, and narrative construction. With Michael Fassbender, as a psychotic plantation owner; Sarah Paulson, as his calculating wife; Lupita Nyong’o, as his slave mistress; Paul Giamatti, as a fussy slave broker; Alfre Woodard, as a cynical plantation mistress; and Paul Dano, as a brainless overseer.

– David Denby, The New Yorker
 

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