Watch out Oscars, the British Are Coming; Bets Are Already on That 12 Years a Slave Will Bring the Ultimate Glory for Its Key Players, bothLondoners: Director Steve McQueen and Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. David Sexton Is Enthralled

The Evening Standard (London, England), October 17, 2013 | Go to article overview

Watch out Oscars, the British Are Coming; Bets Are Already on That 12 Years a Slave Will Bring the Ultimate Glory for Its Key Players, bothLondoners: Director Steve McQueen and Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. David Sexton Is Enthralled


Byline: David Sexton

TOMORROW, 12 Years a Slave, the extraordinary new film by black British director Steve McQueen, finally receives its British premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square as one of the highlights of the BFI London Film Festival. It's also going on limited release in the United States.

I was lucky enough to see the film at its public premiere last month in a big theatre at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was an emotional occasion. In the audience people near me gasped and wept at the scenes of cruelty and degradation. A few walked out. When it finished, there was a tumultuous standing ovation.

The question-and-answer session on stage afterwards was no less affecting. Brad Pitt, who co-produced the film and appears in it as the man who finally helps the enslaved hero regain his freedom, paid heartfelt tribute to McQueen: "Steve was the first to ask the big question: why have there not been more films on the American history of slavery? It took a Brit to ask it. And I just have to say, if I never get to participate in a film again, this is it for me." What more could he possibly have said? Though this was early in the festival, it was immediately obvious that 12 Years a Slave was a cert to win the big prize at Toronto, the BlackBerry People's Choice Award, voted for by audiences using their ticket stubs, not a panel of judges. It was equally clear that it was a lockdown for the Oscars, even though they were six months in the future -- Telegraph film critic Tim Robey went online to put a bet on it that night. Two days later the odds had collapsed. If McQueen does 'I just say, if I get to win the Academy Award, it will be a first for a black director (only two have ever been nominated).

participate in a film again, is it for Brad Pitt Is such excitement excessive? I don't think so. I hadn't been entirely persuaded by McQueen's two previous feature films. Hunger (2008), about the last days of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, may have won the Evening Standard Best Film Award and have been a work of great formal beauty, with a tremendous performance by an emaciated Michael Fassbender, but I found its piety easily resistible.

Last year, Shame, in which Fassbender again gave his all as a desperate sex addict heading for a breakdown, didn't entirely convince me either. I complained that "both of McQueen's films retain that quality of video art, where performance and repetition create the effect, rather than character, dialogue and story" and suggested that the sex addict, Brandon, was seen as just as much a holy martyr as Bobby Sands. "McQueen, evidently, is interested in routines of compulsion," I wrote, adding sniffily that "his next film, it appears, is to be about actual slavery." It seemed just too obvious a development.

My scepticism about the project evaporated when I read the book, from which the film is adapted, on the plane to Canada, absolutely gripped.

12 Years a Slave, the "Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853 from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana" (available as an e-book or now as a paperback from Hesperus Press) is a masterpiece, previously entirely unknown to me.

have to never this me' McQueen has performed a public service merely by bringing it into wider circulation. Published in 1853, a year after Uncle Tom's Cabin, 12 Years a Slave sold 30,000 copies in its day but then was forgotten for almost 100 years, until it was rediscovered by researchers in the Sixties, who were soon able to confirm its authenticity and accuracy.

The book differs from other accounts of slavery. Northup was a freeman in upstate New York, living happily with his wife and children, when, bamboozled by a pair of slave traders who tricked him into thinking they had work for him as a musician in Washington, he awoke, probably after being drugged, as well as given drink, in chains. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Watch out Oscars, the British Are Coming; Bets Are Already on That 12 Years a Slave Will Bring the Ultimate Glory for Its Key Players, bothLondoners: Director Steve McQueen and Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. David Sexton Is Enthralled
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.