In the year 1841, Solomon Northrop (Chewetel Ejiofor) is living in Saratoga, NY with his wife and two children. He is a violinist, an upstanding member of the community. He is not completely impervious to the nearby horrors of slavery—a curious slave sees Solomon shopping in a general store, wanders in, only to be excoriated by his master—but it’s something happening to other men, in other parts of the country, less educated men, not men like him.
One fateful day, he agrees to take a job as a traveling musician, but it’s all a ruse. He’s drugged and sold into slavery. Solomon’s hell is not just that he’s been enslaved, but that his erudition, his very status as a free man, must be kept secret from his masters, who will sooner beat him to death than allow him to put on supposed airs. Against all instinct, he must learn to somehow bide his time, blend in, while secretly searching for a way to reclaim his freedom.
Yes, the film is based on a true story.
When I was a young girl I saw the wide-reaching and educational mini series Roots and it had a profound effect on me, as it did for many of my generation. But in a way, by focusing on the plight of a single man, 12 Years a Slave...