I am recommending everyone go see the film Twelve Years A Slave, particularly those who so casually went to see a film released last year that used Ni**er 150 times for entertainment and turned the horrors of chattel slavery of Africans into a Looney Tunes-style caper. I am recommending everyone go see the film who wants a thoughtful, yet unabashed story of triumph that doesn’t dumb the story down for an audience. All in all it was a bargain to complete at $21M. I am recommending everyone go see the film to get a taste of what it was like for people to survive the Black Holocaust. If we don’t correctly remember what our ancestors overcame, how can we maximize the opportunities that came from their sacrifice?
In the hands of another director, I’d be extremely wary of any nuance or respect for the ways people lived and died centuries ago. It could have easily been too heavy-handed revisionist or too heavy-handed in reinforcing hopelessness. As a fan of Steve McQueen‘s previous films, Hunger and Shame as well as his mixed media art, I believe he put his best foot forward with this project. It’s unfortunate this film is on the tail end of so much drivel from coonfests with much bigger budgets like The Butler or Mammy Revisited with the likes of The Help, but it is what it is.
We can deconstruct and critique the finished product for what it is after the fact. We can of course question why this film got funded and promoted and whether there are any negative messages disseminated. And yes, I’m aware it is very much a male story, but there were key portions of the book described in detail that were included in the film that impact the women in the story. I am also aware the co-screenwriter also had a hand at co-writing Red Tails, but the problem with that film didn’t end with the script but the director’s choice in erasing African American women from history by cutting them out of the movie.