Steve McQueen 12 Years a Slave*In Steve McQueen‘s “12 Years a Slave,” Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northop, a free man from upstate New York who’s kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana.

In the film, Solomon is shown being hung for striking an abusive and imbecilic plantation hand. Then he’s positioned do he can barely reach the ground and is left dangling, shuffling excruciatingly on his tiptoes.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that on film, and I wanted to make damn sure if it was on film, it was going to be done well,” McQueen said in a recent interview. “It was very necessary for me to use those kind of shots to tell the story. Film is what 115, 120 years old? It’s a baby. There’s no right or wrong way to shoot anything. It’s not style. It’s necessity.”

We have seen other notable films about slavery (“Beloved,” “Amistad,” the miniseries “Roots”), but “12 Years a Slave” seems to be the most straightforward depiction of slavery yet in cinema.

“I wanted everyone to be Solomon Northup,” says McQueen. “You are on that journey with him.”

“12 Years a Slave,” will be released in theaters Oct. 18 and already has Oscar buzz based on its review from the Toronto International Film Festival.

“If you don’t know what that feels like,” says Ejiofor, “if you don’t get inside that experience of being there all day, out there in the sun, hung by your neck, barely able to stay alive, then you don’t know the depth that this man is prepared to go to in order to keep himself alive.”

“This is not National Geographic or any kind of scientific exploration to tell you how things actually were,” says McQueen. “It’s about the narrative.”

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