Our writers have been hard at work reviewing the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards. Find out which movies are worth your time and which ones are better reserved for a rainy day, perhaps several years after the Oscars.

Kai Zhu

With the Oscars just around the block, let’s discuss one of the strong candidates for Best Picture of the year: 12 Years a Slave. Directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Brad Pitt, 12 Years a Slave is based on the memoir and slave narrative of Solomon Northup (Played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), chronicles the period when he was kidnapped as a free man and auctioned into slavery for 12 years, before the Civil War began.

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With perfect direction by Steve McQueen, world class performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northup) and Michael Fassbender (as slave master Edwin Epps), no wonder this film was one of the best films I have seen in years. In his memoir 12 Years a Slave published in 1853, Solomon Northup accounts his life as a free man with wife and kids in Saratoga, New York. With an immense talent for the violin, two circus trainers lured Solomon to Washington D.C. on a lucrative job. The true intentions of the circus trainers are revealed as they tainted Solomon’s drink with drugs and subdued him long enough in order to kidnap him and sell into slavery.

Solomon is loaded into a boat full of other slaves on their way to New Orleans for auction. Through the twelve year journey, audiences witness graphic accounts of the tyranny slaves went through during the American 1800s. From a visual point of view instead of looking at texts, we are able to better understand the injustice and lack of humanity the history of our country holds.

I have to stress that this movie was not only about the life of Solomon Northup. 12 Years a Slave is a visual history lesson which helps us truly understand the injustice of the Southern slave plantations. In an American society where nations look up to us and we have the power to enforce many of the objetives we desire, American history teaches about our great innovations while at the same time neglecting our dark past. I felt very disappointed in AP U.S. History when we arrived to the period of slavery and didn’t focus enough attention towards slavery itself, but towards what slavery did to America.

As a Best Picture candidate, this movie is a must watch. More than just a life story, Steve McQueen brilliantly depicts one of America’s darkest times aided by one of the greatest acting duos of all time by Ejiofor and Fassbender. Our understanding of slavery broadens through each graphic scene to the next. If you find yourself struggling to understand the true meaning of oppression, get yourself a ticket to the next showing of 12 Years a Slave.     

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