In my opinion, the trailer and poster do little justice to the film.
In fact, after having watched the trailer I was unmoved, more interested in seeing the likes of the Wolf of Wall Street, or Anchor-man 2
Anyway marketing aside... I finally went to see it.
I took a stroll over to the Picturehouse in Hackney, which is fast becoming my favourite cinema (rating it as one of the finest in London), and not just because of the screen size (big) and quality (crisp), or even the seat size (big) and quality (plush), but due to the amalgamation of the overall new- 'niceness' of the auditorium.
Anyway, venue aside..
I was surprised by the number of people in attendance. In fact I was quite fortunate to get any seats at all. At first glance it looked mainly like an after work crowd, (which made sense due to the time I went), yet in comparison to the Best Man Holiday 2 which had an predominantly black audience, the audience was predominantly white.. Okay... this is interesting, I thought
Thru a sociological lens it stoked a few questions...
Anyway, audience aside..
The film itself is captivating.
Quite harrowing, yet I didn't take my eyes off the screen.
There is a look of absolute bewilderment on the face of Chiwetel Ejiofor, throughout the film that he captures so well. It's a look of bewilderment, fear, confusion, perhaps aghast at the ability of human beings to not only possess, but to express, and action, such a level of inhumanity.
Ironically, it’s a look I feel I've seen many times.
What is striking about the film, is not what is said... but what remains unsaid.
Not what is shown, but what isn’t shown.
As graphic as certain images may have been, they were relatively few in number. I was required to read several accounts of slavery last year, that were explicitly violent. We are given a 'snapshot'
We are provided with an insight into the mental sexual and physical abuse, which cast aside any Marxist views or assumptions that slavery was purely an economic venture.
Classifications of so called races began years before exploration into Africa even occurred.
But mud sticks.
The film is a reminder that the African slave trade is our recent history. That even after some slaves bought, or were granted their freedom, they were still often treated as slaves, and this particular story (which I’d not heard of previously) is the story of one such free man being kidnapped and sold.
Is there a difference with regards to whether one is born into slavery, or is captured and violently forced to become one?
I would argue there is.
Chiwetel's portrayal of a man (Solomon Northup) ripped away from his family and cast into hell was tortuous to watch.
Yet as I watched the film, I was constantly reminded that this, despite being one man’s story, Is an example of the story/s of many men and women, no doubt.
There are scenes which perhaps offer an insight, into a number of contemporary issues, and whilst there are many who argue that there were Africans who willing sold their fellow man to slavery for little material gain, it’s worth remembering that those who lived under colonialism suffered greatly. I suggest that even those who decided to work for their oppressors, suffered great loss... Whether they realised it at the time or not, and the legacy of that, exists to this day.
At the end of the film a few clapped (as is often customary) but not many. and I didn’t clap either. I didn’t much feel like clapping.
What I felt, was an overriding sense of respect for those people who found the strength to carry on, and even those who didn't.
To fight against such a debasing system of cruelty.
For generations to have lived through such trauma, scattered and left to redefine and recreate themselves, to face such oppression yet still love, still smile, and still, generation after generation bring ‘it’ every time. How is that possible?
Yet it has been, and it is.
NB. I really don’t wanna hear the N word again.
During a recent discussion a lady stated that she was uspet because her young 5yr old daughter came home (equally upset), and asked her..
'Mummy... am I black??'
I wanted to let it be, but I said..
'That can only be an issue... depending on what you think being black is'
Hope she speaks to me next week but if not.. sod it. You gotta be kiddin me.