Steve McQueen

Hard to endure, hard to fathom, but essential.

"12 Years A Slave" captures a personal, intimate, fear.

“12 Years A Slave” captures a personal, intimate fear.

12 Years a Slave feels like it could very well be the most accurate cinematic depiction of the atrocities of slavery.  We don’t just see the physical brutality, we also feel the isolation, the helplessness, and each slave’s necessary abandonment of individuality in order to survive.  The geographical solitude in which two different worlds are formed, the one inhabited by the slaves and the one inhabited by the landowners and overseers, is one of the story’s focal points and how it affects the mentality of each character.  For all of these reasons, 12 Years a Slave, based on the book of the true story by Solomon Northup, succeeds where no other film about slavery has.  In other films of this nature, the “hero” rises up against the odds.  The protagonist rises up by gradually becoming an outspoken leader, or by finding the only sympathetic ear that winds up being a ticket to freedom.  Those stories may be inspiring, and well told, but they are often sugar-coated, to put it bluntly.  When viewing 12 Years a Slave, we, the audience, don’t get special treatment.  We are forced into a very dark place in our nation’s history, and we are asked to face the harrowing truth head on.

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Michael Fassbender (actor) and Steve McQueen (writer/director) of SHAME at the BFI London Film Festival

In the several months since its premiere on the film festival circuit, Shame has quickly become one of the most talked-about films of the year. While this is certainly due in part to prurient interest in its more lurid aspects – its nudity and sexuality were deemed explicit enough to warrant the dreaded NC-17 rating from the MPAA – it is also because of universally ecstatic reviews for the brutally fearless performances of stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, as well as the hauntingly artful direction of today’s exclusive interview subject, Steve McQueen.

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