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Visual & Performing Arts
Movie Review
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Discuss The Film In The Context Our Broader Understanding Of American History (Movie Review Sample)


to discuss the film in the context our broader understanding of american history

12 years a slave
A short review
Parish, (2018), and Hornbeck, & Naidu, (2014), observe that in the early 18th and 19th century, the legal institution of human slavery found its way from British America into the United States. At this time, slavery was only permitted in 13 colonies. The institution of slavery was at its peak by the time the American Revolution was underway, Shi, & Tindall, (2016). After this period, writes Smith, (2017), abolitionist voices had begun to be heard and quite a few whites were beginning to look down upon fellow whites who still carried out slavery. This was in the mid-1800s, and this is the period in which this movie is set. The set is about a former free African named Solomon Northup who was lured by two men who promised him an opportunity to play violin at their circus in Washington after which they had promised to pay him handsomely. Northup was a gifted violin player.
Solomon is drugged and shipped away from his family, his home, his status as free man, and certainly from freedom. Together with a female slave, they are sold to a white man named William Ford who turns out to be a very cruel and ruthless slave owner. The slaves are forced to work on Ford’s cotton farms and when the production of Ford’s farm declines, he sends them away to another slave owner as his crops re-grow. The new slave master is a white man named Epps and is adept at cruelty and torture. He especially tortures Patsey, a young soft-spoken slave who eventually begs Northup to help her end her misery; a request which Solomon vehemently refutes.
In the 12th year of his ordeal, Solomon meets a white Canadian carpenter named Bass who fiercely criticises slavery in all its forms. He is disgusted by the notion by the white class of the American South who believe that blacks are brute, savage and uncouth beasts who need nothing but taming. Solomon begs Bass to get in touch with his family up north and assure them that he is alive and wishes to join them soon; a request which Bass accomplishes.
Important Themes
The movie is rich in the history of slavery and is a near perfect depiction of the post civil war American South as compared to other productions which mostly covered the trade in slaves other rather the actual suffering of the subjects. Several themes are manifested some of which are discussed below:
White supremacy
Solomon is a good violin player. He intends to use his talent to earn livelihood. However, when the two white men see him, all they see is a strong energetic man who could be great service on the sugar and cotton farms of white save owners. In the movie, after Solomon is drugged, he is shackled and transported in a paddleboat to the South. These are acts that are done to animals that are devoid of intelligence. Therefore, Mr Northup is demeaned to the level of an animal. Additionally, it is a common notion among most whites that blacks are savage and brute beasts that need to be tamed.
In their desolate state, slaves are a hopeless bunch who can only forget their despair by looking up to a spiritual higher being that can see their torturous state and have mercy on them. Parish, (2018), notes that during working shifts, the slaves sing songs that praise God who is in heaven. Additionally, during burial of their loved ones, the slaves dedicate the deceased souls to God and ask Him to love, bless and keep them. However, it is also apparent that the white slave owners understand the importance of scripture to the slaves; which they use to their own ill wills. Illustratively, Epps quotes the scripture to his slaves and uses it out of context. He quotes Luke 12 which warns slaves not to disobey their masters and risk being thoroughly beaten if they go on to disobey. We also see William Ford reading scripture to his slaves on Sunday.
Throughout the movie, the slaves are subjected to long hours of torturous labour with a lot of beatings. After Solomon and the woman named Eliza are purchased by William, Eliza’s are purchased by another master and the w...
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