A slave’s view of slavery

12 Years a Slave Fox Searchlight Rating: 14A 133 minutes

12 Years a Slave is not an easy picture to watch. But it is an excellent examination of the brutality, unfairness and injustice of the practice, especially when the character at the centre of the movie was once a free man. Although that probably shouldn’t make a difference.

The movie is based on a book by the man who lived it. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man in upstate New York, with a wife, children and profession, who is kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years in Louisana. We get to see slavery from the slave’s point of view and, at the same time, from the view of a man who once was free.

In his journey from free man to slave and back again, Ejiofor’s character meets the whole spectrum of white overseers, from the vicious (Michael Fassbender) to the kind (Brad Pitt, playing a Canadian of all things). They are part of an excellent supporting cast of top notch actors, mostly in small parts, ranging from Paul Giamatti to Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is probably the most authentic look at slavery in an American movie, curiously, directed by a black Englishman, Steve McQueen.

The movie has nine Oscar nominations, including best picture, director, screenplay, actor and supporting actress for a great debut performance for Lupita Nyong’o as a fellow slave. If there is any fairness in Hollywood, it should win a few, especially for Ejiofor and Nyong’o.

Rating: five deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.