12 Years a Slave, directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley, is a 2013 historical drama film based on the autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film, which opens in October, has already received critical acclaim at two major film festivals. When it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August, movie goers said they were moved to tears and it received a standing ovation when it ended. The star studded cast is lead by Chiwetel Ejiofor , as Solomon Northup, Michael Fassbender, newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt and Quvenzhane Wallis.
Last weekend the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and many of the reviews have already given Oscar predictions to the movie. “I am composed enough to say ’12 Years A Slave’ is the best, most emotionally powerful movie I have seen in a decade, at least,” BuzzFeed senior film reporter Adam B. Vary wrote on Twitter in the first of two tweets about the film. “I would be afraid about overselling ’12 Years a Slave,’ but if you love cinema and storytelling and are human, you will understand.” Buzzfeed even had a post called “’12 Years A Slave’ Is The Must-See Movie Of The Year, And Should Win All The Oscars.”
In his recent review for The Guardian, Paul MacInnes stated, “Stark, visceral and unrelenting, 12 Years a Slave is not just a great film but a necessary one. The phrase “long-awaited” has been much used to describe this third feature from British director Steve McQueen, which sees Chiwetel Ejiofor alongside Michael Fassbender in a star-studded cast. It’s a common piece of cinematic hyperbole but it also describes the function this picture serves in confronting a practice that endured in the United States of America for nearly 250 years.”
Unlike Roots, which is a fictionalized tale of slavery, 12 Years A Slave took a non-fiction account and brought it to the silver screen. Many critics have said 12 Years A Slave is the next Schindler’s List because of both movie’s ability to not only tell the tale of atrocities but to humanize them.
But why does the movie have to be a “next” anything? Where the comparison to Schindler’s List could be considered an honor within itself, the fact that the movie is about slavery and is coming out during a time in which some people feel that race relations haven’t improved in this country, 12 Years A Slave could be the wakeup call people need.