There’s no doubt in my mind that 12 Years a Slave will go down in history as a landmark film. Never before, and quite possibly never again, has the issue of African American slavery and the still present pain and anguish been this viscerally and brilliantly realized. Its effect is provocative, much like gazing into an unattended open wound that never quite heals itself, but rather reaches a point of stasis beyond which things couldn’t possibly get any worse no matter how awful a situation may be.
Dork Shelf talk to director Steve McQueen, writer John Ridley, and historical consultant Henry Louis Gates about their work on the powerful drama 12 Years a Slave, the history behind free African American turned forced slave Solomon Northup’s life, how the story came to the filmmakers, if they thought the truth of slavery being depicted on screen would be too much for audiences to handle, what Ridley found most painful about the writing process, and why McQueen believes cinema is the greatest of all art forms.
It’s hard not to talk about the World War II action drama Red Tails without bringing up George Lucas. Making a fighter pilot film had always been a dream of the man whose greatest strength was filming dog fights in the skies. Lucas, who allegedly oversaw reshoots and worked a bit on the script, receives only a producer credit here, but he probably should’ve had a lot more input on this tale of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. It’s a film that has its heart in the right place and nothing but the best of intentions, but also one the cries out for some sort of real guidance to hold this debacle together.