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'12 Years a Slave' © Fox Searchlight
’12 Years a Slave’ © Fox Searchlight

By Megan Bianco

Arguably the most sought after filmmaker in current English cinema is Steve McQueen (not to be confused with the Hollywood actor). Despite only three films under his belt, he has made a major impact. His first two films, Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), were frank and stark in content and theme. His 12 Years a Slave is in the same vein and bound to mark him in film lore for a long while.

In pre-Civil War America, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man with a job and family in New York. While on a business trip with two white men, Solomon is abducted and forced into slavery along with a group of other free black citizens. The story follows his journey, and struggle to hold on to his dignity, through three different households over more than a decade of imprisonment.

Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch play two of Solomon’s masters. Lupita Nyong’o presents a remarkable debut as his fellow slave; and Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt make small appearances. 12 Years a Slave is based on the memoirs by the same name of  Solomon Northup. Ejiofor leads a brutal feature that shows the importance of freedom and respect. We’ve seen slave-themed films before, but not one from an angle like McQueen’s. While Django Unchained made audiences cheer and roar for the protagonist to succeed, 12 Years has viewers sit back and observe the horror portrayed on screen.

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