Tag Archives: Brad Pitt

News & Gossip: Quick Read

 

 

Once again we have searched the web for interesting news and thought these articles would be of interest to you. its a mixture of awards news, Steve McQueen’s new American TV show, diversity in American TV and new film releases.

We hope you enjoy this quick read:

 

Gotham-awards 2014Nominations for the 2014 Gotham Independent Film Awards have been announced with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood getting four nominations, including one for best feature.

Also among the nominations are Justine Simien (Dear White People) for Breakthrough Director, the UK’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights) for Best Actress and Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) for Breakthrough Actor.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Birdman and Boyhood have both been nominated for best feature, along with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ira Sachs’ Love is Strange and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin.

This year’s Gotham’s audience award will be determined by online voting from members of the independent Filmmaker Project, the organisation that presents the annual awards. The award ceremony itself will take place on December 1st at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, British actress Tilda Swinton will also be honoured at the Ceremony.
Read more and a full list of nominees here at Indie Wire:
http://www.indiewire.com/article/boyhood-leads-gotham-awards-nominations-20141023

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MCQUEEN PILOT SHOW HEADS TO HBO
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12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen has a new project underway and it’s heading to America’s premium cable network HBO.

McQueen co-wrote the pilot script alongside Matthew Michael Carnaham writer of futuristic zombie film World War Z. Both will exec-produce alongside See-Saw Films’ Iain Canning and Emile Sherman and HBO’s Russell Simmons.

The pilot titled “Codes of Conduct” is described as a provocative exploration of a young African-American man’s experience on entering New York high society, with a past that may not be all it seems. The lead character is Beverly Snow; a young man from Queens who is as talented as his is ambiguous. His self-confidence will enable him to break into the social circles of Manhattan’s elite, testing the boundaries of access and social mobility. The series will follow Beverly’s ability to grant him access to a life larger in every way than the one he was born into. His chameleon-like approach to life will test his nerve and allow him to take his future into his own hands.

McQueen has cast an unknown actor as the lead in the project, Devon Terrell, McQueen who will direct the pilot said of Terrell; “I needed to find an extraordinary actor. Although you’re trying to find devon-terrellsomething you recognise, it’s more about finding something you’re surprised by. Devon has this quality. It was no easy task casting the lead character of Beverly Snow and, with the help of HBO, we left no stone unturned. This was a 10 month intense process in which we came across many talented actors, but only one Beverly!”

Born in California but raised in Perth, Australia Terrell studied drama at Edith Cowan University. He was also accepted into Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art in 2011 and has been developing his craft since. A transmission date for the pilot has not yet been set.

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NEW FILM: BEYOND THE LIGHTS
Check out this new clip of the next BET/Relativity Media-backed feature film from writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood, “Beyond the Lights,” which tells the story of Noni Jean, a hot new recording artist who has just won a Grammy and is primed for stardom. But the pressures of success compel her to nearly end her life until she is saved by a young police officer. They fall hard for each other, despite the protests of their parents who want each to focus on their own career ambitions. But he might be the missing piece to unlock her artistic potential.

beyond-the-lightsBythewood’s “Beyond the Lights” stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker, Danny Glover and Minnie Driver co-star.

Renowned black film producer’s Stephanie Allain and Reggie Rock Bythewood co-produce. Relativity president Tucker Tooley is exec producer with Matt Alvarez.

“Beyond the Lights” will be released theatrically in the US by Relativity, with an official release date now set for November 14, 2014. After that, it’ll have an exclusive television premier in the U.S. and South Africa on BET.

Sadly it doesn’t appear this film will get a UK release even though the lead character is supposed to come from London before moving the the states in the film.

Kush director Marlon Palmer met with Stepanie Allain early last year in London to discuss production locations here in the UK and the possibilities of assisting. Unfortunately nothing arose from this and it appears they made the entire film in the states.

This will be Bythewood’s first feature film directorial effort since 2008’s “The Secret Life of Bees”.

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DGA REPORT SHOWS NO IMPROVEMENT IN US DIVERSITY HIRING

The results from the latest survey carried out by the Directors Guild of America have shocked some within the profession while confirming the fears of others. The DGA survey covered more than 3,500 episodes of US Television and revealed that minorities and women haven’t achieved significant progress in directing TV series.

Caucasian directors accounted for 81% of all prime-time episodes while only 14% of female directors where hired during the past season.

The 14% of female directors matches similar numbers for the previous season of American TV. Paris Barclay the DGA president said ‘Unfortunately, it can be shockingly difficult to convince the people who control the hiring to make even a small improvement to their hiring practices. But the end result is something worth fighting for”.

The report showed that some of the top US shows had not employed female or minority directors, these included; Boardwalk Empire, Fargo, Hannibal, Eastbound and Down and Resurrection.

Read the full report on the Directors Guild of America site here:

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SELMA STAR PRAISES PITT’S POWER AND CONSCIENCENESS:
selma_david-oyelowo

UK Actor David Oyelowo, star of Selma, The Butler, Interstellar and TV’s Spooks has praised Brad Pitt stating the actor “uses his power to get things done that otherwise wouldn’t” Pitt, previously a producer on ‘12 Years A Slave’ put his weight behind Selma when the project originally stalled and managed to get it fast tracked into production.

Selma follows Martin Luther King’s 1965 landmark voting campaign and was produced by Oprah Winfrey from a script rewritten by Ava DuVernay from an original screenplay by Paul Webb.

Black film advocate and rising star director Ava DuVernay also directs.

Selma is due in UK Cinemas on 6th February 2015 and you can read an interview with David.
Oyelowo on his role as Dr Martin Luther King here:

The Oscars – Kush Looks back

Written by Lamar Fergus-Palmer
12.03.14

The Oscars has long been the ‘centre piece’ of the awards season. Millions tune in from all over the world to watch the spectacle, and 2014 did not disappoint. Films are often judged and promoted based on how many nominations/wins they’ve received, so the evening itself is always full of shocks, surprises, emotion, and a huge amount of press.

The 2014 Oscars had arguably more talking points than the other Oscars in years gone by, and it was without a doubt the most talked about award show in recent memory. With that in mind, at Kush Films, we will take a look at the highlights of the 86th Academy Awards.

12 Years A Slave Wins Best Film
oscar-winnersmarch2014

Regardless of what happened, it only seems right to start with what will now be considered the best film of 2013/14 as the winner of both the BAFTA and Oscar for the Best Picture 12 Years A Slave.

Directed by 44 year old, British Steve McQueen, some thought that 12 Years A Slave may finish behind Gravity in the running, as it has taken almost seven times as much money at the box office. However, it was 12 Years A Slave that prevailed much to the delight of a star-studded producer and cast list, which included; Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lupita Nyong’o.

McQueen, who gave the acceptance speech, dedicated the award win to all those who suffered and still suffer slavery today. He said, “everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live,” in a very moving speech that eventually saw him jump into the arms of his cast and crew to celebrate.

Lupita Nyong’o wins best supporting actress for role in 12 Years a Slave
Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in "12 Years a Slave", racts on stage at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

Following on from the above, Lupita Nyong’o took the Oscar for best supporting actress beating out strong competition, most notably from Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle). The Mexican born Kenyan had previously won 23 of the 31 ‘major’ awards she had been nominated for in her very first feature film role on 12 Years a Slave.

Lupita Nyong’o took the time to thank the real-life slave who guided her to shape her moving performance as Patsy, and she also thanked Steve McQueen, and fellow cast members, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender. She closed with the line “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Gravity picks up seven academy awards

While the team involved with Gravity would have been disappointed that they did not pick up what could arguably be considered as the biggest awards, the movie did win the most awards of any film of the night, seven in total, including:

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Best Director – Alfonoso Cuaron

Achievement in Visual Effects

Achievement in Sound Mixing

Achievement in Cinematography

Achievement in Sound Editing

Achievement in Film Editing

Best Original Score

With seven Academy Award wins on the night Gravity now sits alongside other films like; Schindler’s List, Shakespeare in Love and Lawrence of Arabia who have also all won seven Oscars.

Dallas Buyers Club wins both major male awards

Dallas Buyers Club also had a night to remember, as it picked up the two main male awards; Matthew McConaughey won best actor, and Jared Leto picked up the award for best supporting actor.

Matthew-McConaughey-reuters

Both winners gave emotional speeches with McConaughey thanking his father, who passed away when he was just 23 years old and Leto, who praised those who had died from AIDS, as his character in Dallas Buyers Club had the condition.

The other antics
The Oscars are known just as much for the red carpet, presenting and skits as it is the awards now, and this year’s 43 million viewers (the most in a decade) were not disappointed with the entertainment.

The historical selfie that almost broke Twitter
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When Ellen Degeneres (the host) decided that it would be a good time to take, and post a selfie of her and several of Hollywood’s elite, including; Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt she probably didn’t realise just how popular the post would be.

Until that post on her account, Barack Obama’s Victory Photo was the most re-tweeted tweet ever with over 750,000 retweets. In just a few hours the Ellen selfie surpassed one million, then two and now sits on 3.3 million re-tweets.

Jennifer Lawrence falls over again
After falling over on the way up the stairs to pick up her 2013 best actress Oscar, Jennifer Lawrence was hoping that 2014 wouldn’t bring the same fate. Well, while she avoided an on-stage fall, she did stumble on the red carpet, and it was caught by camera, much to her disappointment.

Leonardo Di Caprio – the man overlooked
With five personal Academy Award nominations and no wins, Leonardo Di Caprio (Wolf of Wall Street) put on a brave face as the best actor award was handed over to Matthew McConaughey. Of course, Twitter blew up with memes and statuses about how Di Caprio would seemingly never win a best actor Academy Award.

While he might have some way to go to overtake the late Peter O’Toole, who was nominated for best actor eight times without winning, those on social media did have some light-hearted fun with Di Caprio’s loss.

The pizza delivery guyellen-degeneres-serves-pizzWhen Ellen says she’s ordering pizza you better expect a few large boxes to turn up, regardless of the timing. Delivering the pizzas to some of Hollywood’s elite, Edgar Martirosyan, who WAS a real deliveryman from a local pizza establishment, seemingly had no idea that he would be delivering to some of the biggest stars in the world.

Martirosyan hand delivered the pizza to stars, including; Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and many others before making his way back to work, sans tip. Ellen collected for him and then gave him $1,000 the next day on her show. What a night for Edgar Martirosyan and Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria that experts say received up to $10,000,000 worth of free advertising because of their appearance.

The 2014 Oscars was action packed to say the least. Congratulations to all the winners, especially 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o and commiserations to the runners up, as they say the show goes on – hopefully the line-up of films for the 2015 Academy Awards will be just as great as those in 2014.

© Kushfilms.com 2014

12 Years A Slave on the March towards the Oscars

By Marlon Palmer
21 February 2014

The_Bafta_Film_AwardsFacesTo say that 12 years a slave was one of the success stories of the recent BAFTA awards would be an understatement. Nominated for ten of the major awards, the film won arguably the two most competitive; best picture and best actor, awarded to a jubilant Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The BAFTAs was once again a star-studded event with world-famous actors and actresses lining the red carpet. Names like; Angelina Jollie, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio and arguably the most famous of them all, the President of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Prince William turned out for another memorable evening.

With the nominations released back in early January people had been speculating for a little over a month about what films they thought would win the major awards. With 11 nominations, Gravity, staring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, who missed the awards as she was looking after her ill three-year-old son, was expected to clean up, and with six BAFTAs to its name by the end of the night that was the case.

American Hustle with arguably the most household names in the same film received ten Barkhad Abdinominations and three awards in what many would consider a good night, taking into account the competition. Unfortunately, for the cast and crew, critically acclaimed Captain Philips starring Tom Hanks, which had received nine nominations, picked up just the one award; best supporting actor, which was awarded to Somalian new-comer Barkhad Abdi.

 


A night that belonged to 12 Years a Slave

bafta awardsWhile 12 Years a Slave picked up one less award than American Hustle, many film critics believe that it had a more successful night. The film, which has also been nominated for nine Academy Awards, had been named film of the year by a number of the biggest critics in the British media.

However, quite possibly the most prestigious award Best Picture still came as a shock to the majority of people involved with 12 Years a Slave as Gravity, which broke box-office records, was almost expected to win.

As well as best picture, 12 Years A Slave star 36-year-old Chiwetel Ejiofor from Forest Gate won best actor over stiff competition in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips and Christian Bale for American Hustle.

12 Years a Slave was also nominated for the following acting and directing awards, best:

  •      Supporting actor (Michael Fassbender)
  •      Director (Steve McQueen)
  •      Supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o)

12 Years a Slave was undoubtedly one of the biggest success stories of the BAFTAs. With the black historical theme of the film; black director Steve McQueen directing, and a number of very talented black actors in the main leading roles its surprising this film hasn’t been categorised as a black or urban film, as so often happens with other films with that make up of cast and crew conveying the black life experience. 12 YAS could now potentially go on and win a few Oscars.

At Kush Promotions, we are proud of the role that we played in the marketing campaign of a hugely successful film, a film which once again bought back vivid memories of the horrors and inhumane treatment of one branch of the human family, which should never been forgotten and should be once again use to highlight the continued present day trafficking of human life.

12 Years A Slave is still in selected cinemas – go see it if you haven’t!

Hey; spread the word: Kush hopes to confirm soon that we will be working on a new major black film based on an award winning Nigerian book that will be released in the UK entitled “Half of A Yellow HOAYS_Intl_QuadC_Awards_v5BSun” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and John Boyega (young star of UK urban film “Attack The Block”), this film will be coming to cinemas soon in March 2014.

Oh don’t forget to go see new comedy “Ride Along” starring my favourite comedian Kevin Hart and fellow star Ice Cube in cinemas on general release starting next weekend Friday 28th February.

 

Barkhad Abdi wins Best Supporting Actor at the BAFTAs

Director Steve McQueen & 12 Years a Slave wins Best Film BAFTA

BAFTA Highlights

Two Winners at Producers Guild Association (PGA) – ‘Gravity’ & ’12 Years a Slave’

12-years-a-slave-Lupita

First tie in PGA history

“Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” have wound up in a dead heat as both won the Producers Guild of America’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award for top feature film — the first tie in the PGA’s 25-year history for the trophy.

Ben Affleck announced the awards Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton back-to-back — first to “Gravity” producers Alfonso Cuaron and David Heyman and then to “12 Years a Slave” producers Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner.

The PGA, which has 6,000 members, does not reveal its vote totals. The guild uses the preferential balloting system employed for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Oscars.

Cuaron gave extended thanks and made fun of himself as the director of the cutting-edge space tale — “he can be stubborn, uncompromising.” He also singled out his son and co-writer Jonas Cuaron for energizing him through the film’s lengthy development process.

Brad Pitt said of the searing historical drama “12 Years” represented an opportunity “to contribute brad_pitt_03something to the yearly narrative, to culture, and that is fucking cool.”

An emotional McQueen, who also directed, said, “Thank you so much for opening your hearts and minds to this film.”

The PGA also selected “Frozen” as the top animated film and “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” as the winner of its documentary prize. “Breaking Bad,” “Modern Family” and “Behind the Candelabra” won the key TV awards with “Modern Family” taking the comedy series trophy for the fourth year in a row.

“Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” topped what was regarded as a highly competitive field — “American Hustle,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Saving Mr. Banks” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The twin wins spread the wealth for the weekend award winners, which saw “American Hustle” win SAG cast ensemble award while “Dallas Buyers Club” took the two male acting awards and “Blue Jasmine” and “12 Years” won the female acting trophies. A week ago, “12 Years a Slave” won the Golden Globe for best drama and “American Hustle” won for best comedy.

The PGA’s Zanuck award has become a strong indicator of Oscar sentiment in recent years, matching the Oscar for best picture in 17 of its 24 years — including the last six, with “Argo,” “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “No Country for Old Men.” The PGA winner last diverged from the Oscar best picture for the 2006 award when “Little Miss Sunshine” won while the Academy opted for “The Departed.”

Affleck, who won the award last year for “Argo” joked when he revealed that two films had won the Zanuck that it was “a legitimate mathematical numerical tie — but it was the producers who told me so.”

The producers branch of AMPAS constitutes about 8 percent of the AMPAS membership.

“Gravity” has grossed $677 million worldwide for Warner Bros. while Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years” has cumed $53 million.

The next major milestone in this year’s awards race comes Saturday when the Directors Guild of America presents its top feature film award. Both Cuaron and McQueen are up for the award along with Paul Greengrass for “Captain Phillips,” David O. Russell for “American Hustle” and Martin Scorsese for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Kevin Spacey received the top laughs of the night with a dead-on impersonation of the late Johnny Carson before presenting “Modern Family” with its trophy. “Of all the awards shows, this is the one to be at because it’s not on TV,” he said.

“We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” tracks the organization founded by Julian Assange, and people involved in the collection and distribution of secret information and media by whistleblowers. Alex Gibney wrote and directed the film, which debuted at Sundance and was released this summer by Focus with a $166,000 gross in the U.S.

Here is the list of PGA winners:

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

“GRAVITY” (Warner Bros. Pictures) Producers: Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman

“12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures); Producers: Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures:

“FROZEN” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures); Producer: Peter Del Vecho WINNER

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures:

“WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS” (Focus Features); Producers: Alexis Bloom, Alex Gibney, Marc Shmuger

Television Programs:

The David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television:

“BEHIND THE CANDELABRA” (HBO); Producers: Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polaire, Jerry Weintraub

The Norman Felton Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Drama:

“BREAKING BAD” (AMC); Producers: Melissa Bernstein, Sam Catlin, Bryan Cranston, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Mark Johnson, Stewart Lyons, Michelle MacLaren, George Mastras, Diane Mercer, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett

The Danny Thomas Award for Outstanding Producer of Episodic Television, Comedy:

“MODERN FAMILY” (ABC); Producers: Paul Corrigan, Abraham Higginbotham, Ben Karlin, Elaine Ko, Steven Levitan, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Morton, Dan O’Shannon, Jeffrey Richman, Chris Smirnoff, Brad Walsh, Bill Wrubel, Danny Zuker

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television:

“ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN” (CNN); Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandra Zweig

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment and Talk Television:

“THE COLBERT REPORT” (Comedy Central); Producers: Meredith Bennett, Stephen T. Colbert, Richard Dahm, Paul Dinello, Barry Julien, Matt Lappin, Emily Lazar, Tanya Michnevich Bracco, Tom Purcell, Jon Stewart

The Award for Outstanding Producer of Competition Television:

“THE VOICE” (NBC); Producers: Stijn Bakkers, Mark Burnett, John de Mol, Chad Hines, Lee Metzger, Audrey Morrissey, Jim Roush, Kyra Thompson, Nicolle Yaron, Mike Yurchuk, Amanda Zucker

The Award for Outstanding Sports Program:

“SPORTSCENTER” (ESPN) WINNER

The Award for Outstanding Children’s Program:

“SESAME STREET” (PBS)

The Award for Outstanding Digital Series:

“WIRED: WHAT’S INSIDE” (http://video.wired.com/series/what-s-inside)

In addition to the competitive awards, the Producers Guild presented special honours to Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson (David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures), Robert Iger (Milestone Award), Peter Jackson & Joe Letteri (Vanguard Award), Chuck Lorre (Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television), Chris Meledandri (Visionary Award) and FRUITVALE STATION (Stanley Kramer Award).

Courtesy Varity.com © 2014
http://variety.com/2014/film/awards/two-winners-at-pga-gravity-and-12-years-a-slave-1201065016/

12 Years A Slave: The Interviews

Lupita Nyong’o (Character: Patsy)

Lupita Nyong’o & Alfre Woodard discuss their roles in 12 Years a Slave (Character: Ms Shaw)

Michael Fassbender Interview (Character: Slave Master Epps)

Brad Pitt talking turning 50 and 12 Years A Slave (Character: Canadian Carpenter liberator)

Steve McQueen ITN Interview (Director)

Chiwetel Ejiofor Interview (Lead Character: Solomon Northfolk)

Benedict Cumberbatch Interview (Character: Slave Master William Ford)

Academy Conversations: “12 Years a Slave”

Film Review: 12 Years A Slave

Written by Michael Dequina
Jan 2014

 

Reviewing Steve  McQueen’s: 12 Years A Slave

12yearsaslave_collage

12 YEARS A SLAVE is not the first (and most certainly will not be the last) film to tackle the subject of America’s shameful history of slavery, but it often feels like the first real one. Illustrating that point vividly and succinctly is a scene, roughly before the halfway mark, where an attempted lynching of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) by some especially despicable slave handlers is interrupted by a superior–but just exactly that, interrupted, not freed. Once the would-be killers are chased away, Solomon is left alone to dangle on literal tiptoes, the camera keeping an unflinching, unwavering eye to his second-to-second struggle to maintain something close to steady balance, as intensely focused on him as all those immediately around him intensely turn a wilfully oblivious eye, continuing about their business.

As shown in his previous films HUNGER and SHAME, such is director Steve McQueen’s remote, rather clinical style, where there is no semblance of basic comfort, much less manipulative sentimentality, in evidence, only unadorned observation–all the better to register, in a manner never quite captured on film before, the raw, true horror of the inhumanity of slavery. Supporting the point and compounding the effect is the specific true story of Solomon, a free black man who finds himself captured and sold into slavery in the South. But furthermore, so does the intrinsically outside-looking-in approach that could only come from a non-American (British) director. Not only doesn’t McQueen soften the harsh, cut-too-deep edges of John Ridley’s script, but he grasps how the contrast with the early glimpses of his success and value as a functioning, integrated member of society points up just how needlessly, absurdly counterproductive forced servitude is beyond its shallow, ego-boosting race-based entitlement and power trips (embodied, in various degrees of condescension and/or cruelty, by slave handler/owner characters played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, and, most notably, McQueen’s muse Michael Fassbender).

Similarly contrasting, and rather effectively so, is that between McQueen’s overall cerebral detachment and the warmth and empathy of his actors, who also bring their own fierce intelligence to the plate. Ejiofor’s finely etched portrayal of Solomon is neither a passive victim nor a movie world wish-fulfilment hero but something far more complex, far more realistic, far more relatable. While he does fight back, particularly in the early going, the consequences he inevitably faces and endures force him to take–befitting the educated human being that he is–a more carefully studied, strategic approach, never not looking for any way out but also falling in line just enough to simply survive in order to see another second and with it the possibility of another chance to break free. But even as one can always see the courageous thinking going on behind Ejiofor’s eyes, coming through just as powerfully is his very real fear. Similarly complicated 12yas_still_Patsyare depictions of other slaves Solomon encounters throughout, from Adepero Oduye’s young mother who understandably if too easily gives in to her personal pain and grief to, most especially, newcomer Lupita Nyong’o’s devastating turn as Patsey, whose productivity in the fields and (for lack of a better word, relatively speaking of course) favoured status from the Fassbender character masks her ever-consuming internal existential hell.

So committed–boldly, and perhaps for many too discomfortingly so–is McQueen to his uncompromising vision that not even the closing text cards offer much in the way of simple answers about events that follow the depicted screen time, much less anything passing for comforting words. And that is how it should be, for there should be no solace in how now, centuries down the line, the fallout and lingering issues left from this period are still very much felt–and that they may not be so blatantly obvious and thus too easy and tempting to overlook underscores how necessary McQueen’s cinematic jolt to the system is.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

IN CINEMAS TODAY – FIND YOUR LOCAL CINEMA SHOWING THE FILM HERE:
http://eonetickets.com/gb/12yearsaslave/

Read more audience reactions to the film here 


Read Michael Dequina’s other reviews at:

http://themoviereport.com
http://twitter.com/twotrey23
http://facebook.com/twotrey

12 YEARS A SLAVE: “Utter Darkness” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In Cinemas Jan 10th
12-years-a-slave-quad_smll

IN CINEMAS TODAY – FIND YOUR LOCAL CINEMA SHOWING THE FILM HERE:
http://eonetickets.com/gb/12yearsaslave/

12 YEARS A SLAVE
“Utter Darkness”
by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
HLGatesHeadshot_t700

12 Years a Slave is Steve McQueen’s astonishingly brilliant cinematic conjuring of an African American’s bestselling, harrowing memoir exactly 160 years after it was published to great fanfare, just eight years before the start of the Civil War.  As a literary critic and cultural historian who has spent much of my career searching out African Americans’ lost, forgotten, and otherwise unheralded tales—especially the narratives of fugitive slaves–I was proud to have served as a consultant on McQueen’s film and excited to see the fruits of his labors.  As a cinephile, I also was thrilled to bear witness to perhaps the most vivid and authentic portrayal of American slavery ever captured on screen.  That this magnificent artistic achievement was made by a Black British director, bringing an African American’s screenplay so vividly and subtly to life,  makes this unprecedented achievement all the more impressive, and all the more of a signal event in the history of film and in the history of representations of slavery in the American South.

As I sat riveted during Steve’s film, I also found myself sitting with 12 Years a Slave’s original author and protagonist, Mr. Solomon Northup (1807—unknown), during those first hours, days and nights SolomonNorthup_zps4cd56c95in April 1841, when, in “the dungeon” of Williams’ Slave Pen off Seventh Street in Washington, D.C., he reckoned with the betrayal that had lured him out of a lifetime of freedom in upstate New York into a nightmare of enslavement in the deep and deeper South.  “[W]hen consciousness returned I found myself alone, in utter darkness, and in chains,” Northup wrote, and “nothing broke the oppressive silence, save the clinking of my chains, whenever I chanced to move.  I spoke aloud, but the sound of my own voice startled me.”

Not only was Northup suddenly a stranger to himself, in an even stranger place, but with his money and the papers proving his status as a free black man stolen and a beating awaiting every insistence on the truth of who he really was—a husband, a father, a free man—Northup was forced into a horrifying new role, that of the paradoxical “Free Slave,” under the false name “Platt Hamilton,” a supposed “runaway” from Georgia.  That all this happened in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol Building—that, in cuffs, Northup was shuffled down the same Pennsylvania Avenue where generations later Dr. King would be heard delivering his “Dream” speech and President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle would parade in hopes of fulfilling it—must have made Northup’s imposed odyssey all the more bitter.  “My sufferings,” he recalled of the first whipping he received from the notorious slave trader James Birch, “I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”

But unlike Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the outpost to which Solomon Northup was shipped was no metaphor with circles but the forests and cotton fields of Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana, a no-man’s land between the Red River, the Great Pine Woods and The Great Cocodrie Swamp.  “I had not then learned the measure of ‘man’s inhumanity to man,’ nor to what limitless extent of wickedness he will go for the love of gain,” Northup revealed about his fateful first hours as a slave, but in Louisiana he did learn as the property of three different owners: one paternal (William Prince Ford); one insecure (John Tibaut, whom Northup nearly choked to death after being attacked by him); and one former slave driver and overseer, Edwin Epps, brutally efficient with the lash whenever Northup was too late, inefficient, unwilling to whip Epps’s other slaves himself, or high on his own talents as a violinist—Northup’s “ruling passion” ever since his childhood as the son of a free woman, Susanna, and an ex-slave farmer, Mintus, who, as a property owner in Fort Edward, New York, had earned the right vote.  As if Northup’s luck couldn’t have been any worse, 10 out of his 12 years as a slave were spent under Epps’ watchful eye.  “I never knew a slave to escape with his life from Bayou Boeuf,” Northup wrote.  As a result, the driving force of his new life—and story—could be summed up in one question: would he be the exception?

No, nothing about Solomon Northup’s 12 years as a slave (actually it was 11 years, 8 months and 26 days) was familiar or natural.  Where he had been born in the Adirondack Mountains and grown up felling trees and rafting on and around Lake Champlain, in Louisiana there were swamps and killer dogs to tame.  Where he had had access to books and a common education in Sandy Hill, New York, in Louisiana, there were laws forbidding slaves to learn to read or write, and even when one could, like Solomon, every letter had to receive his owner’s approval (thus his censure) before it could go out.  And where Northup had earned a living working at a hotel in the burgeoning resort town of Saratoga Springs, with a wife Anne and three children, Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo, on Edwin Epps’ plantation there were no wages but acres of cotton to pick and a punitive system as arbitrary as it was severe.  While looking out for Epps’ other slaves, Northup could never overcome the memories that set him apart from them, so that his only true companion was himself—his curiosity, his resourcefulness, his strength and skills, his beloved violin and his ability to figure other people out.

 USE-THIS-sign

 AN “AMERICAN” STORY

Since D.W. Griffith premiered his whitewashing—really, a gross, racist distortion—of the history of slavery in his 1915 silent film, The Birth of Nation (a film designed to serve as propaganda to justify the emerging system of de jure or Jim Crow segregation), there have been all too few films that have captured, or even attempted to convey, the truth of the experience of slavery, from the slave’s point of view.  There have been even fewer films worthy of recognition.  Yet, slave stories are the stories of the shaping of America—and the Americas, which received a total of some eleven million Africans over the history of the slave trade, between 1501 and 1866—and, like the Holocaust in Europe, their stories cannot be told and retold enough.  While the United States received about 400,000 of these Africans shipped directly from the Continent, by the outbreak of the Civil War, their descendants had grown to some 4 million.  101 fugitive slaves published books about their enslavement; but only one, Solomon Northup published a book about his passage from freedom, to slavery, to freedom again.

What makes 12 Years a Slave especially worthy of attention is what audiences in Northup’s own time appreciated about his tale: its sober presentation of “American Slavery” as it really was interwoven with the universal themes of identity, betrayal, brutality and the need to keep faith in order to survive confrontations with the evils in man.  Most of all, Northup, as much as any man who endured slavery’s trials, reminds us of the fragile nature of freedom in any society, then and now, and the harsh reality that whatever legal boundaries existed between so-called Free States and Slaves States in 1841, no black man, woman or child was truly safe.

As distinctive, and as poignant, 12 Years a Slave has an unusual trajectory unlike most other antebellum slave narratives.  In fact, its drive is in reverse, from freedom to slavery, in both a single human life and as a larger allegory for the institution of slavery itself.  In this way, it defies the more common (and reassuring) American story of upward mobility, of attaining ever greater badges of liberation with “luck and pluck,” from “rags to riches,” from log cabins to respectable frame houses to fancy mansions with a view, much like the other 100 slave narratives published by black authors before the end of the Civil War.  Instead, Northup’s trajectory is down—down from Saratoga to New York, down from New York to Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C., down from D.C. to Richmond to Louisiana—and thus an inversion of most of America’s popular literature (at least by Amazon standards), which, to my amazement, makes it all the more uncanny that the name of the hotel where Northup’s two white kidnappers, the rapscallions Alexander Merrill (a.k.a. “Merrill Brown”) and Joseph Russell (a.k.a. “Abram Hamilton”), tricked him with him too much drink was none other than Gadsby’s Hotel.  In Northup’s prefiguring of the counter-narrative, the isolation in darkness that Ralph Ellison later made famous in his unparalleled novel, Invisible Man (1952), 12 Years a Slave gives us the soul of African American literature and culture, the “sound of life” in “oppressive silence.”


12-YEARS-A-SLAVe

“A MAN—EVERY INCH OF HIM”

Whatever the trajectory, in any great story, from the Greeks to Gatsby, the protagonist functions as our guide, the reader’s or audience member’s eyes, ears, nose, hands and tongue, the one through whom we think and feel.  In Solomon Northup, unlike even the greatest African American writer and speaker of his day, ex-slave Frederick Douglass, the audience of 2013 and beyond has a guide who is as surprised, shocked and horrified by slavery as we might have been, because we begin at the same starting point in life as free men and women.  The result of Northup’s story, of the free man made a slave, is almost biblical, which again is also uncanny, because, at the time of Northup’s kidnapping in April 1841, he was exactly 33 years old, the same age most assume Christ was when he carried his cross up to Golgotha.  Unlike a God humbling Himself in the form of man, however, Northup was a man forced into the life of a slave, and the prospect of his resurrection was more elusive than three days.

What ensues in his book—and in Steve McQueen’s film—is frightening, gripping and inspiring, because as one reviewer of Northup’s theatrical staging in Syracuse, New York, put it, “He is a man—every inch of him” (Syracuse Daily Journal, January 31, 1854).  Yet because of the color of Northup’s skin, every inch of his manhood was vulnerable to being falsified, stolen and denied, and there was nothing he could do about it.  In fact, Northup quickly learned that protesting his enslavement represented an even greater threat to his survival, because, to his traders and his owners, he was worth real money as a slave while as a free man he would have been worth more dead than alive (at least as a slave he could choose not to speak).

 

NORTH AND SOUTH, FREE STATE AND SLAVE

At the same time, it is important not to overdraw the boundaries between North and South, Free State and Slave, before the Civil War.  True, at the time of Northup’s capture, there were 13 Slave States and 13 Free States in America (a perfect balance by way of imperfect, indeed disastrous, Congressional compromise).  While it would be impossible to explain the history of their differences here, suffice it to say “two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” to borrow from poet Robert Frost.  One was better suited for industry, and thus wage labor, while the other was rich-soiled enough to continue on with large-scale planting, and thus slavery.  Summing up the difference and its consequences for human beings in 1860, incoming President Abraham Lincoln wrote in a letter to Alexander Stephens of Georgia, “You think slavery is right, and ought to be extended; while we [Republicans in the North] think it is wrong and ought to be restricted.”

Actually, it was far more complicated than any simple (albeit elegant) syllogism could communicate.  In fact, as Ira Berlin writes in his book Slaves without Masters (1974), at no time before the Civil War did the number of free blacks in the North outnumber those in the South, even with the existence of slavery, and while there was a grave difference between the freedoms Solomon Northup could exercise as a free man in New York versus as a slave in Louisiana (including the right to testify against his betrayers), there was persistent, widespread discrimination in the North, including, in some states, anti-immigration laws and segregation regimes that anticipated the Jim Crow era that rendered true freedom a myth for black Americans from the end of the Civil War to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

Nevertheless, the further that North and South pulled apart in the antebellum years, especially over the question of slavery’s expansion west into the territories the U.S. acquired through purchase and war (the political issue of the time), the more tempting it became for slave catchers to venture north, across state lines, to rob free blacks under the pretense of retrieving fugitive slaves.  The bottom line for most of them was the bottom line: trading in slaves was a lucrative business, especially after importing them from abroad was banned by Congress (under the Constitution) in 1807, the year of Solomon Northup’s birth.

Most of this kidnapping activity occurred along the Mason-Dixon Line (where it was easy to escape back and forth between Slave and Free States), not where Northup resided in Saratoga Springs, but as he traveled further south with Brown and Merrill (professed circus employees who tempted him with an offer to make money playing his violin in New York City and D.C.), the riskier the adventure became, risks Northup himself had been warned about, he admitted.  Given the concealed nature of this type of crime, there are no official estimates of the number of free blacks kidnapped into slavery in the United States (abolitionists put it in the thousands a year while Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, put it in the “hundreds … all the time”), but it was not uncommon and it continued through the Civil War, Paul Finkelman and Richard Newman write in the Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass (2006).

Director Steve McQueen
SteveMcqueen


“COMPLETELY ENRAPTURED”

What makes Steve McQueen’s and screenwriter John Ridley’s magnificent retelling of Northup’s 12 Years so powerful is that it comes closer than any other representation to the true intent of Northup’s original book, which was published in 1853 (just five months after his rescue) and sold 12YAS_bookcoversome 17,000 copies in the first few months, and the lecture tours he went on throughout New York and New England in the short years that followed.  In reading Northup today, one immediately senses how determined he was to be authentic in order to prove the veracity of his tale (to this end, he even included details on how sugar mills worked).  In short, Northup (and his cowriter/ “editor,” David Wilson, a former attorney in Whitehall, New York) wanted us to see what he saw.  Had this approach fit the theatrical conventions of the day, Northup might have retired a rich man.  Because it did not, the attempts he made in translating his tale—twice—to the stage devolved into melodrama and quickly flopped—even with Northup himself acting in the starring role.  In this way, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen’s film, can do—and does—a better job in the film than even Northup himself was able to do in the stage versions of his own story, and instead of melodrama we, the audience, are left with the haunting images McQueen’s camera unflinchingly captures, not least the startling up-close performances of Michael Fassbender’s Edwin Epps, Brad Pitt’s Samuel Bass and countless others.

In viewing 12 Years a Slave, we, the viewers, must test our own commitment to freedom, just as Northup’s audiences were tested (though with much higher stakes).  As the film rolls on, we also are the ones willing him to freedom.  We are the ones fearing for his life.  We are the ones confined as he was confined.  In our hopes, we are the ones emulating the petitioners and affidavit-signers who testified to his status as a free man, including his wife Anne.  And in following his story to the end, we are the ones sitting in the shadows determined to reclaim our own freedom, ‘sadder but wiser’ for having witnessed its fragilities.

In the words of the greatest African American of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, who in his Frederick_Douglass_c1860spraise for the original Twelve Years a Slave wrote, “We think it will be difficult for any one who takes up the book in a candid and impartial spirit to lay it down until finished…” (Frederick Douglass’ Paper, July 29, 1863).  Of Northup’s story on stage, Frederick Douglass’ Paper also had this to say: “His story is full of romantic interest and painful adventures, and gives as clear an insight to the practical workings and beauties of American Slavery. . . .  It is a sure treat to hear him give some hazardous adventure, with so much sans [sic] froid that the audience is completely enraptured and the ‘house brought down’” (January 27, 1854).

When the house lights went back up in the screening room where I saw 12 Year a Slave for the first time, I, too, felt “completely enraptured.”  Every viewing of it also constitutes a further act of testifying to the truth about American slavery, which is what Solomon Northup could not do for himself during his 12 years of confinement in the slave South, even though he could write.  While Solomon Northup’s death remains a mystery to this day, we do know he spent the rest of his life testifying to the truth he had lived—and so should we.

The last amazing fact I’ll share without giving the entire film away: You would have to watch Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, with its 134 minute-running time, close to 50,000 times, to equal the amount of time Solomon Northup spent as a slave.  It is one of the miracles of American history and American literature that this noble, sensitive, intelligent man survived this horrendous ordeal, and lived to testify about it.  Now, 160 years later, the brilliant collaboration between a Black British director and an African American screenwriter has brought Solomon Northup’s tale back to life.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Harvard University


Further Reading:

For those interested in reading more, I encourage you to begin by reading Solomon Northup in his own words (and that of his co-writer and editor, David Wilson), in the book, Twelve Years a Slave (1853), available in bookstores and online.

coverimage.bookThe best current biography (and the indispensible source to me in penning this column) is Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave, by David A. Fiske, Clifford W. Brown, Jr., and Rachel Seligman (Praeger 2013).  I personally want to thank the authors for sharing a copy of their manuscript with me in advance and for working so hard to set as much of the record straight as can be set straight.  The facts you’ve uncovered are invaluable—the living descendants you’ve identified, precious.

“12 Years A Slave” Hits The UK Jan 10th With The Tag ~ The Best Film Ever Made?


IN CINEMAS TODAY – FIND YOUR LOCAL CINEMA SHOWING THE FILM HERE:

http://eonetickets.com/gb/12yearsaslave/

Yes its finally here; and arriving next week in UK cinemas and we just cant wait to watch this film, there has been so much hype, with the film even acclaimed as one of the best films ever made; if not the best film ever made!

One thing I do know though is; since Black British director Steve McQueen started making films he has produced an excellent body of work to date  and “12 Years A Slave” is the icing on the cake thus so far. So this is a film that I for one will not miss and eagerness does not define the feeling truly that fills me at this moment in anticipation of seeing this film.

As mentioned numerous times to our supporters everywhere, its vital we all make the effort to go see this film on opening weekend and not wait until a later date, as its the opening weekend figures that configure distributors minds on whether or not they should engage in distributing particular genres of film, as we know Black Films have suffered over the last few years and the black population have complained no-end about the lack of quality black films arriving on these theatrical shores – so hey, gather friends and family together and lets all have a day out at the movies in harmonious momentum showing one and all that “Black Films Do Sell”

12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom.  In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt)
forever alters his life.

12 YEARS A SLAVE stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (TALK TO ME), Michael Fassbender (SHAME), Benedict Cumberbatch (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS), Paul Dano (LOOPER), Garret Dillahunt (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), Paul Giamatti (WIN WIN), Scoot McNairy (ARGO), Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye (PARIAH), Sarah Paulson (MUD), Brad Pitt (WORLD WAR Z), Michael Kenneth Williams (“Boardwalk Empire”), Alfre Woodard (“Steel Magnolias”), Chris Chalk (“Newsroom”), Taran Killam (THE HEAT), Bill Camp (LINCOLN).

The film is directed by British director Steve McQueen (HUNGER)
written by John Ridley (RED TAILS). 12yas_still_01_adf-03734

 

FIND YOUR LOCAL CINEMA SHOWING THE FILM HERE:
http://eonetickets.com/gb/12yearsaslave/

Click Here To Read
12 Years A Slave” Utter Darkness
by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr
Literary Critic and Cultural Historian who advised the 12 Years A Slave team

I found this a very interesting & stirring read – I hope you do also
Marlon Palmer (Mr Kush)