Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film)

Twelve Years a Slave (2013 film) Study Guide

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 film directed by Steve McQueen, with a screenplay by John Ridley. It is based on the memoir of the same name, written in 1853 by Solomon Northup, and tells the story of a black man from the northern U.S. who was abducted and sold into slavery in Louisiana for 12 years. The film received critical acclaim upon its release and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards in total and also won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o).

The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, Michael Fassbender and Sarah Paulson as the Eppses, his owners, and Lupita Nyong'o as Patsey. When we first meet Solomon, he is already living on Epps' plantation. We then see how he came to be there in flashbacks. After working as a violinist in Saratoga, New York, he was kidnapped and sold into slavery without his family's knowledge. The film examines his struggle to survive and the horrors of plantation living.

The film received nearly universal acclaim upon release. In his review of the film, critic Wesley Morris wrote, "For as much as the movies have elided blacks from the center of their narratives, it has also padded a cozy nest for white audiences. Racists have tended to be vanquished by white heroes so that a black audience could feel a kind of gratitude...The power of McQueen’s movie is in its declaratory style: This happened. That is all, and that is everything."