12 Years a Slave Gaining Oscar Buzz

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Twelve Years a Slave, produced by Brad Pitt and his Plan B label and directed by Steve McQueen, is already gaining a tremendous Oscar buzz after its debut in Telluride and ecstatic crowd response at the Princess of Wales Theater at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday night.

It’s a film that depicts how slavery was in the United States in the 1840s, and it’s faithfully based on the true life of Solomon Northrop (Chiwetel ). Northrop, an educated free black man who lived in Saratoga in 1841, was kidnapped and then  sold into the hellish life that was slavery in the South.

He was, among other things, an accomplished violinist. He had a family in New York. The movie is based on Northrop’s autobiography, which was published after he was rescued from his captivity. In Toronto, the film received a standing ovation.

Michael Fassbender gives a multi-layered performance as a seriously mean plantation owner, one who Northrop has the unfortunate experience of being sold to, after first being briefly the slave of another plantation owner who is nicer, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock series).

The British-born Steve McQueen wondered why there weren’t  more movies about slavery. Brad Pitt said, in a Q&A session following the movie: “It took a Brit to ask.”

According to Eliofor (Northrop) while on the stage answering questions about the movie and his role in it:

It was very intense to go to these places. Solomon’s story…was full of beauty and hope, the hope of human respect and human dignity.”

12 Years a Slave is already being touted as one of the films that will have the best chance to win the best picture Oscar. Director Steve McQueen has an excellent chance to pick up the best director Oscar, and Chiwetel Ejiofor very well might pick up a best actor Oscar. The best supporting actor Oscar might be awarded to Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o could earn the best supporting actress.

Previously having directed Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011),
McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, originally a memoir by Solomon Notrthrup, tells the story of a free man who resides with his family close to New York. In 1841, he was conned, drugged, kidnapped, and then he was sold into slavery.

Besides producing 12 Years a Slave, Pitt has a role in it as a carpenter who is sympathetic to Northrup’s plight. It’s sure to win the best picture Oscar, and it might also win the audience award. That’s the only award given at the Toronto Film Festival.

Northrop’s indomitable spirit and struggle to return to freedom are depicted sympathetically and intensely by Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. The Steve McQueen-directed movie is already gaining an Oscar buzz, and could very wel garnish Oscars in several categories.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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