Thursday, December 5, 2013

How '12 Years A Slave' came to the big screen

Since Penguin Classic's movie tie-in edition of Solomon Northup's true account is set for release in the UK today Dec 5, - or is that yesterday at this point? - AND John Ridley, the screenwriter who brought 12 Years A Slave to the 'big' screen has written an intro for the book AND since I know quite a few of you come to me from the UK - ta very much for that - I wanted to make sure you saw this. 

In an excerpt published in the Guardian, Ridley tells readers -
"In trying to create a film about slavery I barely knew  where to start – until my partner, historian Bianca  Stigter, uncovered a true account of slavery that blew  our minds.
I wonder if Ridley was aware - he must be by now! - that Gordon Parks brought Northup's story to the 'small' screen years ago, first under the title Solomon Northup's Odyssey back in 1984, and later as Half Slave/Half Free, both for American television.  I'm not trying to take anything away from Ridley; his screenplay is rightly heralded for its unflinching honesty; just feel like it's important to know that others have tried to tell 'the harrowing true story' before. And that's straight from the original's promotional blurb. See below!



Ridley, who says he was lost, explains...
"Finally, I had the idea of a free man kidnapped into      bondage, but that's all I had. I was attracted to a story  that had a main character any viewer could identify with,  a free man who is captured and held against his will. For  months I was trying to build a story around this  beginning but not having great success until my partner  Bianca Stigter, a historian, suggested that I take a look  at true accounts of slavery. Within days of beginning our  research, Bianca had unearthed Twelve Years a Slave, by  Solomon Northup. 
 "I think I've got it," she said. If ever there was an  understatement. The book blew both our minds: the epic  range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the  humanity. It read like a film script, ready to be shot. I  could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It  felt as important as Anne Frank's diary, only published  nearly a hundred years before. 
 I was not alone in being unfamiliar with the book. Of all  the people I spoke to not one person knew about Twelve  Years a Slave. This was astonishing! An important tale  told with so much heart and beauty needed to be more  widely recognized. I hope my film can play a part in  drawing attention to this important book of courage.  Solomon's bravery and life deserve nothing less.  

Here's your UK trailer; while the film doesn't come out 'wide' over there until January, I gather its' debut this past October at BFI qualifies Steve McQueen's film for a BAFTA.  I'm betting it takes it and I'm pretty darn sure it will take the OSCAR too. My own filmmaking son is set to see it next week; he's totally excited about it as Steve McQueen will be in the house for a Q&A. I'm hoping he'll take extensive notes and share them with us all. 


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