Wednesday, January 22, 2014

12 Years a Slave

You know the drill. I'm realizing now that it's only the pieces of art that really have an effect on me that I end up writing about. And I'm glad that I do, because it's a wonderful thing to record and revisit things that you've felt deeply that are profound.

I saw 12 Years a Slave and at this point in my life, I can't say that I've seen any other film that's as masterfully created, conceived, and executed as this one is. Every last element comes together seamlessly and creates a crystal clear honest window to the human spirit. There are countless shots that will take your breath away, the score does everything with almost nothing, the direction is perfectly cohesive, and the acting is permanently haunting. 

This movie is based on a true story. To me, the name Solomon Northrup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who is everything anyone could ask for in this role) was familiar, as though I'd possibly read it in a text book and the kidnapping of free people in pre-civil war U.S.A was something I was vaguely familiar with, but am quite happy to be reacquainted with now. Since seeing the film on Tuesday, I have dived headfirst into research as I normally do when provoked and have been shocked to learn that every event and character of significance in the film did indeed exist. And in some cases, the reality was worse than what was depicted in the film. This is a movie of enormous historical importance.

This is not a white-guilt movie. You know the genre. There are countless films that address civil rights, and in most of them the black characters are not really agents, they are moreso objects by which we can discern the white character's moral compasses. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stories like this that I actually adore (hence, I don't want to call any out in particular), but because there are so many of them, their message sadly becomes cheapened with time. Furthermore, it can distort one's perception of racism and what is racist. I even heard that a certain parent complained to a certain school district that "we're beating the civil rights issue like a dead horse" recently from a friend who is an educator. Obviously the message isn't making it all the way across with what we've got now.

This is a black man's story. This is the story of a man who endured something unspeakable, unfathomable, and incomprehensible. He wasn't born into it; rather, he is sucked into it and forced to experience it first hand. He is us. This movie explores his humanity in addition to the very human (not caricature) flaws of the white characters that do him wrong. We could be any of these people and the film does not pat us on the back for being unlike the "villains" it simply shows us the honest truth. And this isn't about the civil rights movement. Forget about segregated bathrooms or schools, this is a movie about slavery from the perspective of the enslaved. It's been a long time coming. And thank everything that is holy that it was done right.

This is a historically important film and a beautiful piece of art, but I don't know that I could ever watch it again. I don't need to though, because I will never un-see it. This film shows the brutality and indifference to suffering that human beings are capable of, and it's really quite remarkable. Frightening, actually. But it is real, and if we do not educate ourselves, we become ignorant. Who's to say that this isn't happening now? Guess what, it is.

I death-gripped my arm rests for two hours straight, who knows if I was breathing at all. I finally exhaled as the credits rolled and just...wept.

This isn't for the faint of heart, but the effects are positive. Sanctification and edification are not the products of bliss and joy, rather the means by which we get there. If you go see this, it's gonna hurt...real bad...but you will come out better on the other side.


And on a more shallow note: I love JLaw, but if Lupita Nyong'o doesn't win an Academy Award for this, it'll be the injustice of the century. Also, she's possibly the most beautiful person on earth. I mean, look at her:

I'm so glad that I saw this movie, and should you make the choice to see it (seriously think about it; people were walking out) you won't regret it.

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