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12 Years A Slave

Movie Review by Janice Jones

This month’s movie review is on 12 Years a Slave, the remarkably accurate autobiography of Solomon Northrop written in 1853 and scholarly co-edited and validated in 1968.  The film was directed by legendary screen actor Steve McQueen and starred Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt, among other known and not-so-known actors and actresses.  The film is the true story of an educated, free Black man who was duped, kidnapped and sold into slavery for more than 12 years. Solomon Northrop was separated from his wife and children and the only life, a life of relative privilege for a Black man, he had ever known.  This film was phenomenal.  It was moving and the variety of emotions invoked by this movie ran the gamut.  I felt intense outrage, sadness, compassion, fear, confusion and even joy as I viewed. The acting was outstanding as each performer’s representation of the film’s characters rang with the true depth and authenticity of the individual they portrayed.  I have seen, enjoyed and appreciated a lot of movies depicting slavery, but 12 Years a Slave stirred emotions I have not felt since my original viewing of Roots back in 1976 when I was ten years old. Great job, Mr. McQueen.  Great job, cast.

And as I mention the cast there are two characters or perhaps I should say characteristics in this film that do not necessarily have a person portraying them.  Yet, the presence of these characteristics was just as palpable, tangible and prominent as the individual people who were a part of the cast.  These two characters were revealed in the forms of hate and ignorance.  I have found that oft times when you find hate ignorance is usually not too far behind.  However, in this film I saw them jointly and individually.

Ignorance cast its spell on the entire race of slave owners and those who promoted and participated in the slave trade.  As I watched the movie, I kept thinking about how most Black people believed the White race hated the Black race during the time of legalized slavery.  But when I put that into perspective as it related to 12 Years a Slave, what I found was it was not hatred that fueled the race and their belief in their superiority, but ignorance.  They truly had no real ideal of what to make of Black people; of our color, of our spirituality, of our physical stature, of our strength or our propensity or lack thereof to learn.   Because of their lack of information about us and our gifts, they made their own assumptions and drew their own conclusions, all steeped in pride and ignorance.  Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride appears, disgrace accompanies it, but humility is present with wisdom.”

The other character, hate, was displayed with even more prominence than ignorance.  And while the ugly, infectious, scathing, scabbing hate I saw was mostly centralized to a specific character, the verb in and of itself was almost life like.  The hate of the slave owner’s wife was so bitter and nasty toward one of the slaves that I could almost see it in a tangible form, with its own legs, arms, eyes and a heartless body. I have said I hated things and witnessed others behave in what I thought was hate, but until I saw 12 Years a Slave, I realized I had no idea what real hate looked like. describes hate as, to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: In my opinion, this definition does not even do justice to how Mistress Epps felt towards the slave.

While I can claim to have never hated this strongly or even witnessed this type of hate in person, I know it truly does exist.  With God being a God of love, a God who is love, I’m amazed this kind of hate is a reality. This kind of hate lives and breathes in the righteous and the unrighteous.  But this kind of hate is debilitating.  The movie in of itself offered several opportunities for tears, but I cried the hardest and the loudest when I thought about how horrible it must be for Mistress Epps to feel and be so vile.

1 John 2:11 says, “But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 4:20 says, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

Scripture clearly states there is no room in God’s Kingdom for hate.  And I pray it is apparent that when the scriptures speak of “brothers and sisters” God is talking about humankind.  Remember, walking around in ignorance and filled with hate are in complete contrast to God’s will and purpose for our lives.

Ephesians 4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Contact Janice Jones at

  1. I wanted to see this movie with friend and mom, but they preferred not to see this movie. So by the time I wanted to see it, it was already out of the theaters. I waited nearly a month for it to arrive here, and only had the two late showings which meant that it would not be in there too long. It sadden me, but hopefully will see it in the comfort of my home. My father refused to see it too because he knew the hate would be strong and he would not get along with anyone in the theater and be thrown out. Lol.

    • The Certain Ones says:

      I am definitely interesting in seeing this movie. I read the book and was inspired by it. It was tough, but, encouraging to not give on hope and never forget who and whose you are. Thank you for commenting!

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