I was blown away by 12 Years a Slave recently, it’s a must see.
You have to love McQueen’s no bullshit style and commitment to long uninterrupted takes, often relying on nothing but the expression on an actor’s face. All the performances are simply killer.
I read the book and think that it really does it justice, especially the brutal scene in which Master Epps whips Patsey. (Lupita Nyong’o above)
It was no uncommon thing with him to prostrate Aunt Phebe with a chair or stick of wood ; but the most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to witness—one I can never recall with any other emotion than that of horror—was inflicted on the unfortunate Patsey. …
Then turning to me, he ordered four stakes to be driven into the ground, pointing with the toe of his boot to the places where he wanted them. When the stakes were driven down, he ordered her to be stripped of every article of dress. Ropes were then brought, and the naked girl was laid upon her face, her wrists and feet each tied firmly to a stake. Stepping to the piazza, he took down a heavy whip, and placing it in my hands, commanded me to lash her. Unpleasant as it was, I was compelled to obey him. Nowhere that day, on the face of the whole earth, I venture to say, was there such a demoniac exhibition witnessed as then ensued.
Check out this great interview with screenwriter John Ridley, where you can learn more about the production and the author Solomon Northup. Very interesting to hear how he nailed the dialogue with old newspapers from the exact region it’s set.
PS. Watch McQueen’s first short film Western Deep (2001) at Film School Rejects, it doesn’t look like it’s working but it is, it’s just really dark at the start for a while.
PPS. Impressed and confused by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s 2013 short film Columbite Tantalite. Good work!
PPPS. The next slavery era film should be about Robert Smalls, this bad ass stole a massive Confederate ship and escaped to the north with his family and pals. After the war he bought the house he lived in as a slave (maybe in the film he can burn it to the ground and build a nightclub). Smalls then moved to politics and introduced the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States. Smart bad ass.