British director Steve McQueen has officially made Oscars history as “12 Years a Slave” became the first film with a Black director to win the coveted Academy Award for best picture.
The historical drama based on the true life story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man who was abducted and sold into slavery, has been sweeping up awards all season long, but the Oscars can be quite unpredictable.
The film was pitted up against box office beasts like “Gravity” and controversial hits like “The Wolf on Wall Street,” but still managed to pull ahead of its tough competition.
During his acceptance speech, McQueen wanted to remind the audience that this success is not just important for him, but for the legacy of Northup as well.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” McQueen said. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.”
He also dedicated the award to “all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
The film also snagged two more Academy Awards for best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay.
John Ridley, the writer behind the phenomenal adapted screenplay, became only the second Black writer to win the Oscar for that category.
He also wanted to keep the spotlight on Solomon Northup’s legacy during his acceptance speech.
“All the praise goes to Solomon Northup,” Ridley said. “Those are his words. His life.”
Best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong’o delivered a heartfelt and emotional acceptance speech, reminding viewers at home that they too can reach their dreams no matter where they are from. She also took the time to thank McQueen for giving her the role of a lifetime.
Another best picture nominee made history as well.
“Gravity” managed to lead Alfonso Cuaron to a best director victory, which is a first for a Latin-American director.
The film also snagged the most awards throughout the night, with a whopping seven awards including best sound mixing, best visual effects and best cinematography.
According to IMDb, “12 Years a Slave” has earned 136 nominations and snagged over 100 victories including the best picture by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, the Golden Globe for best motion picture drama, best film at the 2014 BAFTA Awards and the AFI Award’s movie of the year.
The film is also being distributed to public schools across the nation, along with copies of the memoir and study guides, to aid in educating students on slavery.