In case you you didn’t catch up with this week’s Golden Globe Awards, you may have missed the announcement for Best Motion Picture – Drama that was awarded to Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. While I missed the screening during the Dubai International Film Festival, I couldn’t say no to the special media premiere VOX Cinemas organized at Mercato Mall.
**Spoiler Alert – plot twists revealed below**
12 Years a Slave is the story of Solomon Northrup and based in the pre-Civil War era in the United States during the 1840s. Solomon is a free African-American who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery into the Deep South. Coming from a life where he is a renowned businessman and has a loving family, he struggles with the racism and torture his white owners treat him with and his relationships with the other black slaves.
In order to survive, Solomon has to forget about his old life, take the given name “Platt”, and lie about knowing how to read and write. He tries to escape but is unsuccessful several times. However, he eventually finds someone to help him and is reunited with his family 12 long years later.
Having studied in the American curriculum growing up, 12 Years a Slave brought to life the facts I had memorized during my American History classes. Possibly one of the darkest periods in the history of the United States, there have been many movies based around the suffering of slaves during this era including last year’s Django Unchained (read my review here). But while Django was a stylized Tarantino take on this period, 12 Years a Slave speaks to your heart as it focuses on the hardships of one man. If you don’t know much about this era, be ready to be shocked and disgusted by actual historical facts this film revives on the screen.
Even though his situation is not something most of us can relate to, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of Solomon Northrup strikes a raw cord with you as you feel Solomon’s struggle to maintain humanity while surviving under extreme duress. His adversities are complimented and highlighted by the strong supporting cast, with standouts being Michael Fassbender’s Edward Epps and Lupita Nyong’o’s Patsy. Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt provide additional support and glamour to this ensemble cast.
Ultimately, 12 Years a Slave succeeds because of how uncomfortable it makes you. Steve McQueen has taken one of history’s richest and revolting eras and presented it in a way that haunts us each personally. The film is heavy on scenes of torture, murder and graphic violence, which are sharply contrasted with moments of silence that force the audience to feel the raw emotion. The film is a must-watch and while you’ll enjoy it tremendously, it may be too painful to watch again.
About VOX Cinemas
VOX Cinemas held the exclusive premiere of 12 Years of a Slave at Mercato Mall on January 13th. Mercato Mall is one of their newest branches that has opened post-renovations. You can also experience their newest offering – VOX 4DX – at Mirdif and Deira City Centre. Visit VOXCinemas.com for their latest releases and to buy tickets online.