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Film: 12 Years a Slave

"12 Years a Slave" narrates the story of Solomon Northup who was born as a free man in New York. In 1841, he is tricked into a fatal trap and is abducted and sold into slavery. The film is based on a true story and portrays the cruelties of oppression.

Watch the Entire Movie (2hrs 8min.)

Discussion questions and/or Writing Tasks:

  1. Choose a scene from the film that has left an impact on you and describe it in detail. In what way is this an important scene in the film as a whole?
  2. Choose one of the historical events mentioned in the article "From Slavery to Civil Rights" and explain how it is portrayed in the film.
  3. First give a good definition of "racism" and then give examples of how the use of language and particular words and phases in this film, express racist attitudes?
  4. The film has been criticized for its focus on showing detailed scenes of violence like flogging, hanging and rape. What might be the reasons for the director and script writer to dwell on all the brutality? And do you personally think the amount of violent scenes is justifiable or just too much?
  5. In a film review in the newspaper "The Guardian" a critic writes about the film: "(Director) McQueen's bold challenge to the continuing enslavement of people for profit allows no happy ending because slavery and unfree labour are still far from over." Comment on this quotation and link "12 Years a Slave" to current issues or events in our modern world.

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