i saw “12 years a slave” last night.
steve mcqueen has officially made my favorite film director list a truddie. “shame” was one of the most powerful films i had ever seen and i still think about it often. i heard about “12 years a slave” about a year ago and it was beyond worth the wait. to be honest though, how could you go wrong with steve mcqueen behind the camera and chiwetel ejiofor (my baby daddy in my head/favorite actor/man of my dreams) in front of it??
i’m not going to give the movie away for the peeps that have yet to see it, but i will be boring you guys with my take away from the film. my first “you go boy!” award is for cinematography. mcqueen is a master at yanking emotions out of his audience with the use of lighting and sound, not music, actual random sounds. my eyes were welling at a transitional scene that was just trees and breeze for 30 seconds. the guy is just that good! many directors don’t understand the power of silence in film, allowing the viewer to work out the story in their minds and become deeply invested in the characters.
speaking of characters, the cast was ridiculous and by ridiculous i mean, every indie film actor you could think of was in this movie. star studded! not to be a hipster about it, but those indie kids bring out the artistry in film and just leave you raw with their performances. chiwetel ejiofor has been my celebrity crush for years! besides being pure british-nigerian gold, he is truly one of the greatest actors of our time. i mean check out this porn (it’s not actually porn. don’t be a lame, click the link) is there anything better than that? i’ll answer that for you…n-o!
steve mcqueen took home the “you did that!” award for highlighting the zillions of layers that comprised american slavery. people always talk about the systematic division between light and dark slaves, but never the relationship between slaves and poor whites. they were essentially in the same lot with many poor white people working in the fields next to the slaves as day laborers. to give them the feeling of false superiority however, many of them were made overseers. with barely more than slaves, this created the chasm that still exists between poor whites and blacks (regardless of socio-economic status) today. another relationship that was touched on was slave mistress and female slave. the wife of a master was just as subservient as anyone under his employ. she was to be seen as the white female prize and not heard. seeing your husband favor women that are supposedly lower in caste than you breeds hate causing serious tension between slave and wife as well as constructing the fabled black jezebel storyline.
my blackness is unable to be contained, so my hands were raised intermittently throughout the film. i was signifying, yelling “my god!” and “thank you!” during the last scene. i even scooched to the edge of my seat to break into a good karen clark-sheard shout, but i didnt want to scare the white folk and the classy blacks. i think we often look at slavery as this terrible tragedy, which it is, but the triumph is often lost in the shuffle of anger. i just kept looking at all of the black people in the theater and saying, “we are a walking testimony”. hundreds of thousands of people’s family lineage ended on the ships over here or lay at the bottom of the atlantic. all of us walking this blood-stained country have been birthed from the strongest and most resilient. i went to bed and woke up this morning grateful, pouring mental libations for our ancestors. i am overwhelmed just thinking of the shoulders on which i stand on and doubly in reverence of those people whose names we don’t even know. when #blacktwitter is going off about whatever they are mad about today, i swear i hear our forfathers-mothers saying “tuh! you think this is hard?” as a people we have come a mighty long way and we surely have further to go. “12 years a slave” left me with a renewed sense of responsibility to the people i come from and i hope you feel the same.
ok, i’m gonna stop writing here so i can go shout, cry, and physically pour libations. we are forever indebted to our ancestors and a thousand “thank yous” will never be enough. let’s commit to honoring them with our lives as they gave theirs for us.
*editor’s note: movie tickets can easily bankrupt you, so save your coins and catch “12 years a slave” at cobble hill cinema on tuesday or thursday for only $7! it will open on november 1st.