Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Daily Musings: Twelve Years a Slave

Jill Silverberg

As a big fan of historical dramas, be it a novel, a play or a film, when I first heard about the film 12 Years a Slave, I knew it would be a film worth seeing. Well, I just got out of the theater and I have to say, I made the right choice. Set during the mid 1800s, the film depicts the experiences of a kidnapped free black man, Solomon Northup, and his struggle to both survive and return to his family. Based off the book with the same name, the story perfectly captures the attitudes that were prevalent towards slavery during this point in American history.

I won’t give away any details other than the fact that director, Steve McQueen, did an excellent job with casting for the film.  Actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, and Benedict Cumberbatch are all outstanding in their respective roles. You feel differently for each of the characters that these actors represent, emotions ranging from pure sympathy to absolute disgust. I haven’t had the chance to read the source material, so I cannot really compare the two entities together, although I can only imagine that the film did its best to remain faithful to the book. I will confess, that the fledgling archivist in me is a bit curious to know the other sources that they used when creating the film. Call this nerdy wishful thinking, but when they release the film on DVD or BluRay, I hope there is a making of documentary that discuses this process.  I think it would just be so cool to hear how they were able to recreate the lives of both Solomon and the people he interacted with over the course of his time as a slave.

As you can already imagine, I’m clearly going to tell you to see this movie. I will warn you now, there are a few graphic scenes of violence throughout the course of the film. For those of you who don’t like scenes of torture, then this might not be the best film to see on the big screen. Yes they are relatively brief, but the emotions you feel as they occur will stay with you long after the scene has ended. Beyond that, this is still a fantastic film and definitely worth seeing if you are a fan of historical dramas.