Director Steve McQueen joins the stars of '12 Years A Slave' to praise the immense level of acting skill that went into creating the movie. Among those actors were main star Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o.
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Solomon Northup was a well-educated man from a successful family living in upstate New York with his wife and three children. He was categorised as a free black man and made money through various jobs including as an entertainer playing the violin. In 1841, he was tricked into going to Washington DC with two white men for work where he was instead kidnapped and sold to slavery despite there being laws to protect free African-Americans. He spent twelve years on a plantation in Louisiana serving the brutal and abusive owner Edwin Epps. Determined to live his life again as a free man, he befriended a Canadian carpenter working for Epps by the name of Samuel Bass, whose high-morals turned Solomon's life around forever.
This poignant historical biopic is based on the 1853 autobiography 'Twelve Years a Slave' by the real Solomon Northup. It has been adapted to screen by writer John Ridley ('U Turn', 'Red Tails') and the BAFTA nominated director Steve McQueen ('Hunger', 'Shame'). With themes of freedom, racial inequality and the cruelty of mankind, '12 Years A Slave' could be one of the more heart-wrenching movies to kick of the year on its UK cinematic release on January 24th 2014.
Lushly imaginative filmmaking and strong performances more than make up for newcomer Benh Zeitlin's indulgent fourishes as a new writer-director. This fable-style movie from the American South is moody and engulfing, taking us into a world would never have imagined. And that it's anchored by a powerhouse performance from a 6-year-old actress makes it even more remarkable.
This is Quvenzhane Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy, daughter of the tenacious survivor Wink (Henry). They live in neighbouring trailers in the Bathtub, a tightly knit community in the Louisiana bayou that is completely submerged whenever there's a storm. But this latest flood is worse than usual, and as Wink looks for a solution to their waterlogged problems, Hushpuppy starts to realise that her daddy isn't well. So she decides to go find her long-lost mother, who left shortly after she was born. In her imaginative mind, the flood and Wink's illness are both linked to global warming, which is thawing out the polar ice and releasing prehistoric boar-like aurochs that are heading for the Bathtub.
The key element of the story is Hushpuppy's remarkable awareness that the world is a huge place full of interconnected life, and that she is only one small part of it. But she also knows that even a little girl like her can have an impact on her environment, so her quest for her mother takes on an apocalypse-averting tone. And Wallis is simply unstoppable in the role, capturing Hushpuppy's complex internal journey with a transparency that's breathtaking. Opposite her, Henry manages to keep up with her by internalising his own performance.
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Hushpuppy is a six-year-old girl with the theory that the world depends on the perfect unity of everything and if one thing collapses, the entire universe will follow. She and her sick father find themselves facing the struggle of survival as their secluded home, separated from the rest of the world by a large bayou, comes under threat from a brutal storm. In danger of losing her father and her disintegrating home, Hushpuppy must find the strength, the bravery and the skill to stay alive long enough to find her mother.
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