Tag Archive | slavery

Oscar Night 2014 – 12 Years a Slave Review

It’s Oscar night March 2nd!

This year I happened to see quite a few of the movies up for nominations, but I thought I would give a review on the movie with 9 Oscar nominations.

Poster by Ignition Print

Poster by Ignition Print

12 Years A Slave

Directed by British video artist Steve McQueen, it was a must see for me since it was a true story, and historically significant to my ancestry. The movie is about the autobiography of Solomon Northup, published in 1853. Solomon is an accomplished violinist by trade, and a free man living in upstate New York. In the first few scenes McQueen uses silence, scenery, costumes, and a soft filtered look through the lens to capture the eloquent  life of  “freedom” that Solomon and his family live. Through a series of unfortunate events, Solomon is shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery.

I had the movie “Roots” on my mind when I entered the theater, but the contrasting scenes into slavery (one of them rated R) quickly squashed the elegant mini series theory, and I found myself pondering whether I should stay, or walk out now!

I stayed with some regret, but not because the movie wasn’t directed well. In fact, slavery was depicted all too “real” in this movie, I was squirming in my seat. An overwhelming darkness clouded my soul until the very end. Solomon’s struggle to survive this new life was certainly different from that of a slave that knew no other life. Solomon to some extend has to conceal who he really is. He can’t reveal his literacy, but manages to reveal his level of education in one scene. He upstages the foreman played by Paul Dano, and is punished for his success. He is hanged, but his feet barely touch the ground. He can’t lift them, or he dies. This is the scene that had me squirming! McQueen focuses on this scene at length. The morning turns to evening as the slaves go about their daily routine, continually passing by Solomon as he struggles to keep the noose from tightening. I think what bothered me the most was not that Solomon was inches from dying, but that not even his fellow-man could help (although one woman snuck him a drink of water). This was a very powerful scene.

Chiwetel Ejiofor does an excellent job in the movie as Solomon, as well as Lupita Nyong’o who plays the role of Patsey.

The movie has hope eventually when Solomon befriends and begins to trust a carpenter played by Brad Pitt. The carpenter promises to write a letter to a colleague of Solomon. Solomon is eventually retrieved and brought back to his home and family.

Although the movie earned its many nominations, I found it disturbing in its truth, profoundly silent in Louisiana’s beautiful back country, and a heartwarming reunion in the end.

Did you see this movie? Let me know what you thought.

Enjoy the Oscars!

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Juneteenth

McDowell.Family-022

My Great-Great Grandmother, Angeline Poston (sitting), My Great Grandma McDowell on the left

My Great-Great Grandmother Poston was a slave until she was 12 years old. What a treat it was to hear stories from the lips of my Great Grandmother who grew up in Gaffney, South Carolina.

Though Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, it had minimal immediate effect on most slaves’ day-to-day lives, particularly in the Confederate States of America.Texas, as a part of the Confederacy, was resistant to the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth commemorates June 18 and 19, 1865. June 18 is the day Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves.

Juneteenth is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States and has been an African-American tradition since the late 19th century. Juneteenth celebrations include a wide range of festivities to celebrate American heritage, such as parades, rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, or park parties. Many African-American families use this opportunity to retrace their ancestry to the ancestors who were held in bondage for centuries.

It’s not a big day on my calendar, but it’s a big day in my heart to remember those who suffered in bondage, and reflect back on my family history.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juneteenth)

Lincoln – movie review

I had the privilege of seeing the movie Lincoln last night.

What a great epic story about the legislative process of history’s 13th Amendment that ratified our constitution, divided, and changed our nation.

Steven Spielberg in his usual way, so elegantly depicted Lincoln’s life 4 weeks before his death, capturing the most intimate moments of our most memorable president during this historical time.

The cinematography immediately set the tone of the 19th century era with shots of architecture that displayed old rustic weathered wood and brick. I recall only one sunny day in the movie. Outside shots were filled with rain, darkness, and smoke symbolizing the constant civil battle that ripped our nation it two. Most of the shots in the movie were tight, capturing Lincoln and his cabinet with close up shots. It enabled us to truly be a part of the emotional roller coaster during that time.

Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing, a living, breathing, inspiring Lincoln. His demeanor, love, tenderness and patience with his “crazy” wife Mary Todd, played brilliantly by Sally Field, and his young son Tad (Gulliver McGrath) gave us a glimpse into the humanness and everyday life of an ordinary man in many respects. We witnessed his zeal and determination to bring peace to our nation, but not just a temporary peace, one that would leave a lasting tattoo on this nation. We saw a caring , and determined Lincoln, one who put equality in the for-front of his every being. But we also saw the humor in the brilliant mind of this self-taught individual.

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