12 Years a Slave is the definitive slavery movie [critique]

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12 Years a Slave
Mars Movies

Steve McQueen’s drama returns this Sunday on Arte.

On the occasion of the rebroadcast of 12 Years a Slave, we are reposting our review of the event film Steve mcqueen, who received the Supreme Oscar in 2014.

12 Years A Slave wins Oscar for Best Picture

1841. A native of New York State, Solomon Northup lives as a free man with his family. One day, he is drugged, kidnapped and sold to a slave trader in the South. After a stint with a vaguely benevolent plantation owner who is forced to part ways with him, he is transferred to Edwin Epps, a deeply brutal man.

One year later Django unchained, of Quentin Tarantino, the black question once again fuels the critical debate. This time, no controversy in sight: the “slave story” of Solomon Northup, of which the film is an adaptation, does not suffer any possible dispute. Activist for the exclusive appropriation of the black cause by African Americans, Spike lee the pissed off person will not be able to put his two cents in either 12 Years a Slave is directed by a man of color – British, of course. We can therefore appreciate, with a “quiet” mind, this story-river for what it really is, namely a detailed and raw account of the life of slaves in cotton plantations during the nineteenth century. Let’s put it bluntly: the experience is traumatic. Specialist in disturbing subjects (political radicalism in Hunger, sex addiction in Shame) that he stages without filter and with a strong desire to demystify, Steve McQueen has applied the same treatment to this sinister adventure, as intimate as it is collective.

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A shot from the film sums up his approach: “guilty” of physically opposing a white foreman who wanted to kill him, Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is left hanging from a rope with just the right amount of grip on the ground. that, on tiptoes, in the mud, he does not die immediately. McQueen films this grueling scene in a wide, fixed sequence shot. At first, Northup occupies the center of the screen alone, struggling with unbearable skipping, then the image fills with slaves, some going about their business, others (children) playing and laughing. All the stakes of the film are contained in this key scene, whether it is the cruelty of whites considering blacks as perishable goods, or the passivity – close to astonishment – of a population subjected to the worst. exploitation of man by man. If the director condemns a system as a whole, he qualifies his point of view about the individuals who make it up. A fervent Christian, suspected of humanism, the first master of the slave chooses inertia instead of action. Is he better than the horrible Epps, a patient whose guilt-inducing attraction to his “best worker” turns into hyperviolence? And what about Northup’s indifference to his abused fellows (a subtle flashback mentions it), when he was a free man?

American cousin of Black venus by its relative objectivity, its cold factuality and its deep desire for resilience, 12 Years a Slave looks the past in the eye and brings it down.

Christophe Narbonne

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Trailer of 12 Years a Slave :

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