Crunk Feminists Review “12 Years A Slave”

Check out Crunkadelic and EeshaP reviewing the film adaptation of Solomon Northup’s slave narrative, 12 Years a Slave.

Have you seen the film, fam? What are your impressions? Join the conversation below, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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10 thoughts on “Crunk Feminists Review “12 Years A Slave”

  1. I really appreciated this film. Not that it was easy to watch because it was not. I am still processing the layers and I saw it last Saturday. Like EeshaP and Crunkadelic said, none of the characters were flat. Even the deviant ones came across as human, albeit psychologically fucked up humans. The slavers were not monoliths and that added tot he complexity of Solomon’s story, but I think it also lent it much validity. The women, particularly Alfre’s, Lupita’s and Adepero’s characters were all such vital voices and injected complex perspectives. We often don’t see or hear from the women and their emotional states, the ways in which they were silenced and abused into submission. It made me feel like this wasn’t just Solomon’s story, but a whole community’s. I deeply appreciated that. I have seen a lot of people resistant to the film, and I believe it is because there is no “feel good” aspect to it, not even for white people. Even as Solomon returns to his family, there is still an overwhelming sense of devastation, like a man returning home from jail after being falsely accused of murder. All one can keep thinking about is the how he was robbed of his dignity. I plan to blog about the film myself, but ultimately I just wanted to say that I agree, this is a film that needs to be seen by all. It definitely should be included in curriculum as early as high school. I think it’s amazing how “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and all this glorified fiction is required reading, but real life stories are left in the margins. I find this all too ironic and a distraction from the truth. I really hope more films like this are developed and then $upported, if by no one but us.

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  3. I loved this movie and concur with the comments above about the complexity and humanity of the characters and the portrayal of the whole slave community. I was a little concerned that Solomon Northrop would be conveyed as exceptional and more human than the other enslaved people, but this was unfounded. It was often his attempt to assert his difference which resulted in more punishment and realization of the need to bond with those around him. The feeling of uneasiness at the end was not just about his ordeal, but the pain and immense loss for so many of the people he left behind, who would never get reprieve from that life. It was beautifully done. I appreciated the emotional depth of the enslaved women, and the way Patsy’s character confounded this idea some have the willful collusion of enslaved concubines with white masters.

    I could not watch without flinching, had a sweater in front of my face a few times. When people cheered at parts where he fought back I was just shaking my head in dread. I find I am definitely of the “screw pride, do whatever you have to to survive” variety, and this film corresponds well to contemporary work on slavery which responds to a vindicationist tradition that has tended to prioritize only archives of blatant resistance. I thought a lot about Saadiya Hartman’s work while I was watching in ways it both corresponds to and could be subjected to her critique, and would definitely show this film alongside assigning her Scenes of Subjection. The spectacular violence was disturbing, and could generate some great critical conversations.

    Mad at Brad Pitt for sticking himself in there as the dude that saves the day, might have been interesting to see him as a slaveowner. I love him, but he does not allow himself to be a character that is not good and glamorous does he? That moment when he showed up made me laugh and took me out of the realism for a minute. Happy to see him as a producer on the film. I don’t know the details of the process of the film being made and distributed (know it is a Black British director), but I wonder if these kinds of projects don’t get made and seen without that kind of white star support.

    • Actually Brad Pitt has a production company which helped make the film—the only reason he even wound up in it was because he was told he’d have to be it to get it some distribution at least—forgot where I read that. If you want to see him play a bad guy (and very well) for a change, check out the recent crime drama Killing Them Softly, in which he plays a hardcore mob hitman who shows mercy and then none to his victims. Not your typical mob drama, which is why it didn’t get a lot of hype,even though he’s in it. It convinced me he should play more bad guys every now and then. I can’t help wondering if his decision to make the film has something to do with the fact that he has a black daughter—just speculation on my part,though.

  4. Crunkadelic or EeshaP may have said the following line in their vlog, but it was the only thing that was running through my head as I left the cinema this evening…”12 years a slave is one of the greatest films I will never see again.”

    First impressions:
    -Patsy’s moments are raw. One of the most heart-jabbing scenes in the entire film was her plea to Solomon. (I am leaving out details intentionally as to not give spoilers).
    -Tragedy haunts this film in so many ways
    -Music played a significant role in this film; 1) Solomon’s transformation in his relationship to the violin and 2) the soundtrack. I’d be interested to hear a response from a musicologist on how these genre’s of music (e,g. that minimalist ‘new music’ with the haunting horn sounds) have been used.
    -The art of dance used a tool of domination.

  5. Saw 12 Years A Slave earlier this week—-some parts I could not even look at all the way through—such as Patsy’s whipping for nothing more than going to get a piece of soap–that was heartrending to watch her practically beg not to be whipped over little or nothing, which that hateful slavemaster did anyway. And just to see Solomon forced to adapt from being a free man to someone who is literally treated little more than an animal,and beaten down like one, was flat-out difficult to watch at times. And,yeah, I cried at the end, because even though was free, there had been so much taken out of and away from him as a man—and his family, as well–you could feel that thing would never be the same for them after that. I liked the fact that the film wasn’t the least bit sappy or sentimental about the subject,and faced it head-on, or opposed to

    You can go to sites all over the net—especially IMDB—where people have raging debates about this film saying it shouldn’t have even been made in the first place, why even bring the subject of slavery up because it’s been over (it’s been pointed out that no one says this sane thing about Holocaust films,though) or white folks claiming that it’s just another movie to make the feel guilt about slavery—which it’s not, but the fact that they’re ones hollering about it, and especially those who claim that they won’t even see it, but they hate it anyway, is pretty teling.

  6. I have mixed thoughts about this film. The story line was riveting and urgently important, especially for our community’s disconnected-from-our-historic-ancestry Youth. It’s a really important movie, too– for far too many white folk who continue to hold a “just get over it” attitude with Black people about the horrific enslavement of our ancestors and the residual aftermath that remains embedded as trauma in our DNA. This film makes for a greater understanding, and a wider embracing of Dr. Joy DeGruy’s exceptional research and writings on the “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”

    That said, other than the extraordinary– by that I mean– absolutely superb work done by the lead actors, to me— the editing, lighting and direction were awful. I was bothered by the director’s method of story telling and thought the importance of this true story deserved to be better.

    For example, I didn’t “get” the director’s purpose in opening the film showing scenes where Solomon had already been captured and shackled in a dungeon-type cell, then he was shown attempting to make berry ink. Next scene is in Sacramento where he’s a free man, and I felt confused when the exact same beggining scenes were later repeated in the story line. I also would have liked a time lapse indicator to keep up with the passing of the years (i.e.: how long was he on the first plantation until being moved onto the next?). What was the purpose of showing an anonomous woman turning to him for sexual release in the night, never to be seen before or again? There were lots of things that upon reflection in the story telling, did not add up. For example, it made no sense for Patsy to be without soap– a homemade staple that could have been had or borrowed without leaving the plantation in dressed up Sunday clothes and then getting whipped for it. (Would Ms. Alfre be sipping tea in fine china with her fingers up on the cup, with a stink-ass? I think not.) Nor did it make sense for Patsy to repeatedly out-do, show-up and set an impossible bar for her peers in cotton picking. Why pick 500 pounds when every one she survives with can only physically accomplish half that amount? Just made no sense. Nor did the instant cessation of the whaling mother’s cries to have a weird and stilted conversation (without any hiccups) with Soloman on the porch when he told her to shut-up, only to start whaling again, full throttle when she was done talking. I remember thinking as I watched– wow, that’s some really bad acting. Who cries, stops to talk and cries again like that?

    I lost patience with the over-kill of too many long shots of Weeping Willow trees, the steam boat wheel and a multitude of other drawn out, silent messaging (i.e.: Solomon’s tip toes just touching the ground as he was lynched for an endless amount of time). Just seemed like an unnecessary drag of more time than needed to prolong the audience’s emotions and let us know everyone was going about their business– disconnected emotionally. Lastly, I was disappointed after watching this film about all the pre-release hype regarding Hollywood’s finest: Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard, and Brad Pitt. Other than Brad Pitt, the other two parts could have been played by anyone. Nothing special here. Would have liked some background on Alfree Woodard’s character and he sudden appearance (and seem more of her)– and nothing about the sudden appearance of Brad Pitt on the plantation as “Savior” (was he a Canadian Quaker?), his too-quick flip to help to Solomon after saying he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be involved, and his sudden departure. Best scene was when Solomon walked by the aggitated slave master/villain and was met by his Sacramento friend for release. Sadly, the drawn out apology he gave when he saw his family (as they just stood there in a perfect line) and the delayed embrace by his perfect wife, then his perfect children after 12 YEARS!!! was a lack luster ending to the director’s mediocre story telling. All in all, thumbs up for the overall acting by the leads and the true story of Solomon Northrup and the harrows of slavery, but 2-thumbs down for the rest.

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  8. see this film, both for its artistic value and its narrative of an era too romanticized and whitewashed in American films.

    few points:

    - Seeing how this painful legacy twisted in American films for decades, made this film both eye opening for international audiences like myself, and incredibly hard to watch. Slavery is not exactly part of the image Hollywood exports to the world about America and its history, and youth film aficionados around the world did experience whitewashed American history imagery in films for a long time, Scarlet O’Hara looking out with teary eyes at her plantation, separated from her institution of horror, her self-pity and denial to what was going on around her was part of that horror, that was the side that was told to non American viewers for years.
    - Any nostalgia to the southern charm shatters at the feet of the first shot of the film, where the point of view shot talks you through the fields of Georgia, behind the tall lush plantation, ferocious atrocities were in the making.

    - Patsy’s torture scene recalls the Passion imageries. She is Christ paying the price for the white man’s madness, with her flesh and blood. She is whipped for seeking soap from outside the planation, to wash him off of her body. Women in the film take greater tool of the suffering, When she asks for death, her request is denied. death becomes a luxury. Patsy’s storyline is what made this film whole for me, made it touchable, her blood that sprayed after every whip, touched our faces and left us stunned at the extent of human cruelty and madness.

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