Some films just gag to get an Oscar, "12 Years a Slave" was so obviously a die-hard contender. Based on a first-person account, this drama about the African-American family man (free New Yorker in the middle of the Nineteenth century) drugged and kidnapped from his life as a successful violinist and sold into slavery truly has it all. It's an important true story (and a rare one - not so many movies were made about slavery in the USA), it has great cast of actors (who deliver profound stares at the camera and quotes such as "I don't want to survive - I want to live") from Chiwetel Ejiofor (impressive performance) to Benedict Cumberbatch (a "nice and humane" slave-owner), from Brad Pitt (free thinking Canadian contractor, also knows as a film producer) to Lupita Nyong'o (who won Oscar for her portrayal of an abused pet slave of a half-crazy Michael Fassbender's character).
There is violence, physical and emotional (widely spread within the 2 hours of the film), there is a powerful story (a dozen years of forced slavery), there is a great cast and beautiful direction. We follow the 12 years' journey of Solomon Northup from one Louisiana plantation to the next, under masters who come self-righteously benevolent and wild and unpredictably sadistic, 12 years of beating, indignities, false hopes and desperate attempts to not let one's identity go. It all ends well, with an achingly emotional final scenes (yet another tick for the Oscars).
"12 years a slave" is a thought-provoking and emotional film, somewhat hard to watch, it's a testament to the strength and courage of the human spirit, a story of life, loss and freedom. It's not the best film I saw, and I doubt I will be re-watching it any time soon, but nonetheless I appreciate its importance. Besides, it is very well made.
P.S. If you are interested in the Civil Rights debate, I recommend reading Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (yes, that Harriet Beecher Stowe that you see as a screensaver on your Kindle!).