An Oscar winning “12 Years a Slave” is a movie not only worth everyone’s attention, to my mind it is truly necessary for viewing, because this kind of movie is not only of high quality, it is also very educational. Telling about a free black man who happened to become a slave, the film presents a sad story about injustice, cruelty, stiff upper lip and will to survive.
In this paper I am going to examine race discrimination in the movie “12 Years a Slave” by Steve McQueen on the example of the film clip showing the process of buying black people by the owners of the plantations.
“12 Years a Slave” is a British-American drama by Steve McQueen that came out in 2013. Based on the 1853 memoir “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup, the film presents a story of a free African American who was kidnapped for slavery.
In “12 Years a Slave”, there are several scenes which touched me most of all. I’d like to share my impressions about one at the beginning of the movie. It starts with the bathing of the black people (men, women and children) altogether in some small buckets and foot pans. Freeman, the “salesman”, whom the spectator sees as an abominable spectacled little man, takes the black people inside the house for the future “auction”. Throughout the scene the spectator hears a quiet pleasant violin music which contributes to the relaxed atmosphere of the “trade fair”. Freeman shows and describes the black people as some kind of wares, and the spectator just can’t believe that he refers to human beings. Freeman offers his customers some drinks and carries himself very friendly. Finally, he meets and greets Ford, who at once chooses Solomon and a woman. Freeman is pleased, but suddenly the woman starts to weep and scream at the top of her lungs, because she doesn’t want to be apart from her daughter and son. Her hysteria is only met with demands to close mouth and ignoring her prayers. Freeman immediately sells her son to another customer. Ford feels uneasy, he is obviously touched, so he decides to buy the daughter too, so that the mother won’t be separated with at least one of her children. Freeman refuses, and when Ford calls for his compassion, he answers that his compassion reflects in the coin sound.
The following shots truly broke my heart. Ford looks very upset and terrified, Freeman orders to take away the mother writhing in hysterics, children cry loudly, the fuss is all around Freeman tells Solomon to start playing the violin, because he thinks that the music sounds will have a calming effect, but as a result the spectator sees and feels the awful mix of human pain and fake and forcible troubleshooting. Cries of grief and merry sounds of violin together with intense expression faces result in the horrifying movie scene and the tears on the face of the spectator.
Steve McQueen showed skillfully the embarrassment of Ford, the inhumanity of Freeman and the severe pain of the mother. The communication of these three people reveals the horrible essence of slavery in the 19th century. This scene prepares the spectator for the further cruelties in the movie.
The mentioned above scene is the proof of the white men’s cruelty which led to the eternal pain and sufferings of the black people who somehow managed to go through all the hardships and finally become equal to all the nations in the world. Today, they have their rights and live like all the normal people do, but still the horrible part in their history live in all their hearts.
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Rex, R. (2013, October 15). Of Human Bondage: 12 Years a Slave Is a True Story About the Most Shameful Chapter in American History. New York Observer.
Youse, C. (2013). 12 Years a Slave. Library Journal, 138(9), 45.