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120 Minutes a Slave
12 Years A Slave
It was a silent ride back home for the Lucas’. There was no music and there was no talking. What could we possibly say after seeing what we had just seen? The strange part is the silence wasn’t an awkward silence. It almost felt appropriate. We remained silent like that for a while after the movie; well, at least until we started eating and I saw that the Bulldogs were winning. Everything we do has an impact on our soul and our spirit. We cannot separate our actions from our souls. This film is a soulful movie. "What do you mean by 'soulful movie'?” This movie not only came from the soul, but it reaches out and grabs another. I want to help introduce to you Solomon Northup. I ask that you take a walk with me back to when I was first introduced to Solomon and my journey with him as “12 Years a Slave.”
About the Film
TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE is based on the real life story of Solomon Northup and his fight for endurance, hope and freedom. Before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from New York, is a hard working musician able to richly provide for his family. In the midst of doing so, Solomon is abducted and transported south. Facing all kinds of cruelty, betrayal and even kindness, Solomon struggles to retain his manhood and keep his life. After 12 years as a slave, Solomon meets a Canadian abolitionist who forever changes his life.
I had heard about “12 Years a Slave,” but there was nothing really making me want to see it. “Another slave movie. I'll see it eventually, but I’m not rushing to see it.” At that point, I remembered I still hadn’t seen “The Butler.” One day I saw Sean Combs (better known as P.Diddy to most, Puff Daddy to some) post his opinion about the film on Instagram. “A SLAVE ISN’T ALWAYS IN CHAINS!! FREE YOURSELVES!! GO SEE #12YEARSASLAVE NOW!!” I looked at the picture and the actor looked familiar but I kept on scrolling; I didn’t’ even “Like” the photo. Two weeks later, I’m scanning the television when Shaun Robinson catches my attention. She’s a journalist I follow on Instagram. She currently is one the correspondents on Access Hollywood. I see her sitting down talking with the familiar looking actor from Diddy’s picture and a few others. I learned his name is Chiwetel Ejiofor. I didn’t try to figure out how to say it (and I still don't know how too). I recognized that he, like Idris Elba, had an accent. He is of Nigerian decent raised in England. Then I started seeing more familiar faces like Omari Hardwick and Lupe Fiasco. I’m just like anyone else. I watch certain things and begin to favor certain people. When I see those certain people, I generally stop to see what they’re doing. My husband and I had watched 15 minutes of the forum when we decided we wanted to see the film. I had gotten a bit irritated before the movie and almost decided not to go, but I’m glad I did. It altered my life.
I’m still a bit irritated when we pull up to the cinema but I began to get excited. I didn’t know exactly why but I was now anxious to see this film. Now, I’m the type of person who likes to get to the movies 15-10 minutes before the film begins. Basically, I like to be on time. I’m asked all the time, “But why?? That’s only the previews?” I happen to like the previews. I am a movie buff, so why wouldn’t I want to know what new movies are coming out? It makes perfect sense to me. Well, we were 5 minutes late for the movie (another cause of irritation). When I walked in the theatre I was a shocked. This matinee showing of “12 Years a Slave” was packed! Not only was the film packed, but it was mixed with different races, religion and sexuality. We were glad that we were able to still get some pretty decent seats in spite of the crowd. I had my husband to one side of me, a middle-aged white guy on the other, and a middle-aged Latino gentleman that sat next to him. The turnout was astounding. That made me even more excited that I was about to watch this film. “I was almost left out the loop!" As the previews came to an end and they began showing the “turn your phone off” commercials, I caught myself saying “Help Me, Jesus.” Watch the trailor.
12 Years A Slave
This movie was not a “talk to the screen” type film. The atmosphere in the theatre was thick. I knew I couldn’t be the only one in the theatre wondering what the person next to me was thinking. Throughout the movie, there were a few gasps, but towards the end of the movie all you heard was sniffling. I made it through most of the movie by frowning and shaking my leg uncomfortably until I couldn’t hold back my emotions any longer. Tears flooded my face and I no longer could watch the screen. As I wiped the tears from my face (can’t mess up my makeup), I notice my neighbor to my right-side is crying too. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Everything that I had seen throughout the movie came flooding to the surface. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I was full-out crying. I was BALLING! People didn’t really know how to respond after the film ended. It was a moment of silence and then a burst of applause. There was no doubt in my mind that this movie was a hit! Not only was it a hit, but it was an effective hit!
“Did this movie make you hate white people all over again, like Roots did?” Let me be clear. I do not hate white people. They’re cool with me but in the African-American community, when we watch movies that remind us that we were merely someone’s property (like a new car or a prized bull), it makes us feel some kind of way. Well, most of us anyway; there are some who just do not care either way. This movie did not make me walk out hating any kind of race but it left me feeling grateful. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and I caught myself repeating “thank you, Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” I felt sorrier for the slave owners more than I felt anger. One of his slave owners was a good man and took much care of his “property.” He believed in being a good steward over his blessings. Unfortunately, he lived in a society that would not let him be a good person without society having something to say about it. To save his family and the life of Solomon, he sold him. His next owner battled many demons. This man was up to his neck in debt and had a wife who was very outspoken and disrespectful. I could tell he was not a bad man, he just was battling.
Solomon may not be me but his story is similar to someone in my family. I immediately thought about my 94 year old great-great aunt. Her parents and grand-parents endured such a society. I realized I’m not too far from being that "nigger gal" whose child is stripped from her because some man favored me enough to purchase me. I’m not too far from being that young women who wants to die because her Master keeps finding his way into my bed and there is nothing I can do. Our society is not too far from being a people who are afraid to stand up against what is wrong. We’re not too far from being a people who struggle with themselves and current situations. We’re all not too far from something.
I did not know there were so many familiar actors who appeared in this film. I also didn't know that some of them were involved in the making of this film. This film is bigger than race. It’s about US, as a human race. It’s about our society and how it has changed. It’s also about how we’re not too far from repeating history. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a 5 star film all across the board. This film deserves award upon award upon award. Do yourself a favor and free yourself. Go see this movie. Bless someone and take them to see this movie. If this movie doesn’t alter your perception, that’s okay but if it does, the film has done its job.