Monday, March 03, 2014

12 Years a Slave

By Carl

It’s rare that Oscar sees things my way:
“12 Years A Slave” won best picture at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, a poignant victory for the harrowing look at slavery in the United States.
Brad Pitt, one of the producers and stars, accepted the honor and then handed off accepting duties to director and fellow producer Steve McQueen.

“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” said the British filmmaker. “I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery” and to those who still suffer in slavery today. Besides best picture, the film received Oscars for John Ridley for adapted screenplay and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o for supporting actress.

It got my vote, and hands down, I might add. If it hadn’t been for 12 Years, I likely would have voted for American Hustle.

And kudos to McQueen for pointing out that this is not a dim memory of American history, but a tragic stain on our conscience, and a current dilemma for so many people.

Even in America. Even. In. America.

It is not a movie for the faint of heart, but let’s face facts: if you’re faint of heart, you probably don’t read this blog, are not a liberal, and would prefer to think of America as this place where anything is possible rather than deal with reality.

The problem, as the Ariel Castro case proves, this is still true: anything is possible. It’s just not the mythology we’d like to accept.

Realities in America, yes, there’s a topic I’d love to see a filmmaker really tackle. If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded? I think not. And that’s just the first (but largest) myth we delude ourselves with.

McQueen tried. He fired off a salvo, albeit in a safely historical context, but what a damaging salvo. It ought to be required viewing in every state that still waves the Confederate flag proudly, and at least once a month. This is what you defend when you wave that flag.

Maybe a remake of Grapes of Wrath, so people can see how migrant workers really live. Or perhaps Elmer Gantry, so we can see through the lens of the Joel Osteens of the world – or Dodsworth and get a shot in at the 1%.

I see uprisings in China, Ukraine, Syria. I see Egypt and Libya still absorbing their “springs” of years past. I see a world where the present danger isn’t Al Qaeda, or North Korea, but the very citizens of each individual nation. And they look to America, and Americans, to lead the way. After all, we had that little “Revolution” a few hundred years ago. It’s time we owned up to it.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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