The movie 12 Years a Slave, produced in 2013, is based on a true story adapted from the 1853 year’s slave narrative memoir. The movie depicts the story of a black man’s struggle for freedom and survival after the pre-civil war in the United States. The movie opens as the lead actor Solomon Northup, an African American violinist, is dragged into slavery by two men who offer him a job as a musician in Washington. After leaving his wife and children in New York, he accompanies the men to Washington, but only wakes up to find himself in chains.
Solomon Northup is sold off as a slave to William Ford, a plantation owner, where he works diligently and is rewarded with a violin in gratitude. However, he finds himself in trouble with the plantation overseer John Tibeats and suffers verbal abuse, harassment and torture. Owing to the escalating tensions and risk to his life, Ford decides to sell off Solomon Northup to Edwin Epps, another ruthless ranch owner. Epps believes that it is biblically right to abuse slaves. Thus, he whips all salves that pick less than 200 pounds of cotton every day.
Patsey, a young African slave, enters the scene, and is highly praised and loved by Epps because she is hard working and picks over 500 pounds of cotton daily. However, in a new twist, Patsey is not only a farm worker, but a sex slave to Epps. Owing to the repeated moments of rape, Patsey becomes very frustrated and asks Solomon to kill her; however, he declines that request. After a short while, the ranch of Epps is infected by an outbreak of cotton worms, and he leases all his new employees, including Solomon, to the next farm. Solomon works very hard and gains favor of the owner who allows him to play his violin at a neighbor’s wedding to earn extra income.
On one occasion, Solomon lands in trouble as he tries to bribe Armsby to send a letter to his friends in New York. After Armsby betrays him to Epps, Solomon is forced to bury his letter amid tears, thus crushing his soul. As the movie continues, Solomon meets a new friend named Bass while constructing a gazebo. Since Bass opposes slavery, they become friends and accept to risk their lives by helping Solomon send his letter to Saratoga Springs, New York.
Meanwhile, Patsey continues to suffer in the hands of Epps as he lashes her in front of other slaves for disappearing from the farm without his knowledge. As the movie ends, Solomon finally gets a breakthrough of his life after receiving a call from the Sheriff in New York. After verification of his details, Solomon is rescued and leaves immediately for New York. After 12 years of slavery, Solomon is reunited with his family, including his daughter who born him a namesake grandson.
Reaction to the Movie
Although 12 Years a Slave is not the first movie that depicts slavery in the US, it exemplified a life of a man snatched from the streets and enslaved against his will. The movie depicts how men and women experience different phases of trappings, suffering, humiliation and torture under cruel landowners. It was disheartening that after selling off Solomon to slavery, the white men faked his death and burial, thus making his relatives think that he was dead. Besides, it became difficult for Solomon’s legal team to prosecute the men who sold him off owing to lack of evidence.
The movie portrays the humiliating life of slavery in the US after the period of civil war as slaves suffered in the hands of brutal masters. The movie is highly captivating because I was busy following Solomon as he was auctioned from one plantation to another. Furthermore, the movie was rather emotional; I felt sorry for the slaves owing to the amount of torture they had to contain to earn a living.