Firstly, I'm not a huge fan of this film. It ran for 2 hours and 14 minutes, I think it could of been an hour shorter if they cut half of the close up's on his face. I get it, you're oppressed.
Aside from that, it was quite an interesting take on slavery. As we know, 12 Years a Slave was based on the life of Solomon Northup, he was a free man, earning a living as a violinist in upstate New York. That is of course, until he was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. When we think of slavery, we (or me, at least) don't always consider those in this situation, the ones who were kidnapped. It is very often about those who were taken from Africa or born into it. This film gives an insight into those who had a taste of freedom only to then have it taken from them and the relationship between black and white people in different states. I mean I knew the south were a (tad) racist but to actually travel to different states to kidnap them? That's a whole other level of messed up, I don't think you can use the economy as an excuse for that. That is legitimate human hunting.
Solomon was kidnapped under the guise of a job, he was drugged and kidnapped, when he woke up, he was a slave. The master who had his papers renamed him "Platt" after a runaway slave from Georgia. He was then sold to William Ford in Louisiana. He started off in a nearly comfortable position, he wasn't beat by his master, was able to play violin, Ford even made him a violin. After reading interviews on the 'Federal Writers Project', I realise that "comfy" places like this, are more common than usually depicted. However, Ford's carpenter - Tibeat, had other ideas about Solomon. The Tibeats had it out for Solomon and Ford had to sell him on just to protect him. Before Solomon left he tried to explain that he was in fact a free man but Ford's response - "I cannot hear this...I have a debt to pay", shows he has more concern for his finances than Solomon's life and this is the 'quality'?
Solomon was then sold to Edwin Epps. Epps was the complete opposite to Ford in that he was a sadist and a rapist (to name but a few). Whippings were commonplace with him and he used the bible as an excuse for this, (super religious racist white guy in Louisiana? who've thought..?) It's on this plantation that we get a more in depth look at slave life. We see how they live as slave families, in little houses on the plantation. There is even a moving scene with a funeral, how they were allowed to say goodbye to one another, in this particularly moving scene (which of course ends on Solomon's tearful face) the slaves lay one man to rest and walk off singing "Roll Jordan, Roll". Music, being another part of slave life. Under Epps, the violent and racist master, Solomon quickly learned his place and played 'sambo' so as not to attract attention, he had to pretend he wasn't educated and even destroyed his violin.
On this plantation Solomon met 'Patsey'. Patsey picked cotton well and Epps was clearly attracted to her so obviously he raped her, I mean he paid for her so why not right? Another example of how depraved Epps was, he whipped her too. His wife knew he had an attraction to Patsey so she seized every opportunity to humiliate her, further broadening the slaves fight for survival. Patsey eventually asked Solomon to help kill herself, the brutal life she had, had killed her will to live. Solomon couldn't do it.
Luckily for Solomon, his salvation came in the form of Canadian labourer, Bass. (Slavery was abolished in Canada in 1833) Bass expressed his disdain/discomfort over the way Epps treated his slaves. Solomon seized his opportunity and got Bass to risk his life carrying a message back to New York. Solomon's friends came to find him with the Sheriff. They had to leave quickly because they were in danger, Epps was losing it. Solomon and Patsey embraced then, he was gone. There was nothing he or his friends could do to free the other slaves. I am curious as to what happened to Patsey, she seemed to have a worse time than he. We see Solomon get back to his family and all that had changed when he was gone. A bittersweet ending, he's free but he missed so much.
This film showed slavery from three (at least) different sides, two of which aren't usually considered, those being slaves in 'comfortable' work and the lives of kidnapped slaves, it also shows the brutality of some plantations and, close ups aside, it was nearly educational.