8 Memorable Films About Slavery: What They Got Right and What They Got Wrong

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12 years A slave

12 Years a Slave

Director Steve McQueen’s award-winning film 12 Years a Slave (2013) has been hailed as one of the greatest movies about slavery ever. The 2013 historical drama is an adaptation of the 1853 slave narrative memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup, a New York state-born free Black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841 and sold into slavery. Northup worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for 12 years before his release. Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor played Northup while Lupita Nyong’o played Patsey, a young enslaved woman who befriends Solomon.

What It Got Right

The film was praised for its unapologetic, unflinching account of the brutal and inhumane reality of slavery in the United States. Critics and moviegoers alike widely expressed how painful the movie was to watch because of the horrific depiction of the destruction of Black human beings onscreen.

What It Got Wrong

The film’s use of actor Brad Pitt to satisfy Hollywood’s desire for a “white savior,” came off as self-serving. “It’s all so credibly enacted that once Brad Pitt (whose Plan B productions produced the film) arrives in a bit part as a kind-hearted Canadian who visits the plantation and speaks out against slavery, the character’s messianic qualities seem like a bit much,” wrote Indiewire film critic Eric Kohn.

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