’12 Years a Slave’ is the movie of the year so far: Three reasons why

If you want to take part in important cultural conversations in the United States, this is the one movie to see this year. It's also terrific entertainment. Here are three reasons why.

  • The English director Steve McQueen, who is black, had never before seen a movie about slavery in the United States that was told from the perspective of the slave -- so he made one. His outsider-looking-in status allowed him to create work with a cold, hard message.

  • It's a movie about brutality, but Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped from New York and violently, relentlessly forced south into servitude, is a study in subtlety. For two hours, he portrays a once-proud husband and father slowly being ground down both physically and mentally.

  • It's a movie you end up looking away from a great deal because there are horrific moments of bloodletting, rape and other kinds of violence. But you have to keep looking back because you see, unflinchingly, the human trafficking and subjugation upon which life in the United States was based for centuries.

Click on the video above for more from Stephanie Curtis and Euan Kerr. Read Euan's interview with Ejiofor back in 2008.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR's budget year comes to a close on June 30. Help us close the gap by becoming a Sustainer today. When you make a recurring monthly gift, your gift will be matched by the MPR Member Fund for a whole year!