My grandfather, Wade Mackie, was a great civil-rights leader in the Martin Luther King Jr.-era south of Louisiana. So when Roots came out when I was a little kid, I think I sort of inherently “got it.”
The TV miniseries certainly still hit me over the head like a sledgehammer. I’ll always remember Kunta Kinte’s plight and will always feel bad for all slaves and puzzle over how some people can be so downright bad, or at the very least clownishly imbecilic, with a big dose of sadistic. It’s still happening all over the world today. Unfortunately, slavery in some way will probably always be happening.
So then Django Unchained was released. With Argo, that was my favorite movie of 2012 (in fact, I named it my 67th favorite movie of all time). This attacked Roots-era, pre-Civil War-era slavery with an eye for how violent it was and how ruthless. It added a huge dose of Tarantino humor and his style of the unorthodox. Despite that overlay, it was powerful. That’s why it was so good.
But then along comes 12 Years a Slave. This blows Roots and Django out of the water. There were loud sobs throughout the theater. I personally don’t think I’ve cried that hard since E.T. (seriously, I’m not making light, I always cry during E.T.).
So it’s a sad story, to say the least. It’s on-fiction based on a book written by Solomon Northup, a wonderful family man and talented and free musician from Saratoga Springs, New York who was recruited to tour the East coast in 1841 before getting kidnapped in Washington D.C. He was one of the few kidnapped slaves to ever escape captivity, which he does after 12 years at a string of hellish plantations throughout Louisiana.
It will be a crime if Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon, doesn’t win the Oscar for best actor. This is a very important movie, and I’m really happy, in my grandfather’s honor, that, at least judging by Hollywood, we’re getting closer and closer to coming to terms with our country’s ugly past and moving forward into a much more tolerant understanding and appreciation of all our differences and similarities.
***** out of ***** stars