Everything you have heard about the film 12 Years a Slave is true; it is exceptionally well acted, gorgeously filmed, and brutally honest about antebellum slavery. There are moments that are extremely difficult to watch and this is as it should be, leaving audiences stunned into numbness. Film critics and historians alike have praised it as a watershed in the depiction of slavery in American cinema, and this is certainly true. Nevertheless, the film demonstrates that Hollywood has not yet fully caught up with current interpretations of slave life in the antebellum South.
The film tells the story of Solomon Northrup (Ejiofor), a free man and fiddle-player from New York who was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. It explores Northrup’s efforts to retain his dignity in the face of inhumanity as he longs for the family he was taken from and hopes for freedom throughout time in the employ of three different masters, ranging from a kindly preacher (Benedict Cumberbatch) to a cruel plantation owner (Fassbender). Remarkably, and horrifically, the story is a true one.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of Casablanca’s world premier on November 26, 1942. In the following post, M. Todd Bennett, author of One World, Big Screen: Hollywood, the Allies, and World War II, reveals what fans may not know about the movie, widely considered among the best ever made.
Developed at the beginning of the twentieth century, movies quickly arose to become the cultural centerpiece, especially during Hollywood’s “golden era” of the 1930s and ’40s. In 1941, 85 million Americans—85 million, more than three-fifths of the overall U.S. population, which totaled 131 million at the time—attended movie theaters each week. Cinema’s remarkable popularity led observers to conclude that movies strongly influenced impressionable theatergoers.
Mayberry, Lake Wobegon, Hadleyburg, Dogville—these are extreme representations of the small town and they are in direct conflict with one another. Taken together, they reveal the contradictions of the American twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
What is missing here is any social and economic context. True, the Civil War is the film’s encompassing social explanation, but it leaves me wondering why the set of social and economic circumstances that confronted folks in post war Appalachia is completely ignored. In the Tug Valley, as in all Appalachia and even the entire South, economic decline was a serious threat to almost everyone.
It would be a mistake to say that Cuba’s revolutionary leaders came clean on the history of anti-homosexual discrimination and violence. But there were public signs of a willingness to revisit that history in a new light. The most famous example was the 1993 release of the film ‘Strawberry and Chocolate,’ by Cuba’s most prominent film director, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, a friend and ally of Fidel Castro.
From the 1910s through the 1930s, hundreds of American Indians settled in Los Angeles and worked in the motion picture industry as actors, extras, stunt performers, and technical advisors. Some were recruited from reservations to make films for a short period of time. They camped in the Santa Monica Mountains, shot films in its canyons during the day, and explored the city by night.
Glory is noteworthy as one of the few popular representations of the war to include African American music. The Civil War had a tremendous impact on black music but the songs created and sung by African Americans are rarely included in books and films. Although Burns makes use of black spirituals, even he does not incorporate those that were actually most popular among slaves, freedpeople, and USCTs.
View the trailer for the documentary film ‘Death Row,’ included in the new book by Bruce Jackson and Diane Christian called ‘In This Timeless Time: Living and Dying on Death Row in America.’
Historians Vanessa May and Rebecca Sharpless discuss what’s wrong and what’s right with ‘The Help.’
Historian Marvin McAllister explores the racial and mythical dimensions of casting a black British actor in the role of a Norse god in the recent film THOR.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this year marks the 75th anniversary of the publication of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic, Gone with the Wind. The book and its characters are being celebrated and discussed around the world. From Atlanta to Calcutta, people have weighed in on why they like …
Update 4/21/2011:The lamentable news of Tim Hetherington’s death covering the civil conflict in Libya reached us yesterday (20 April 2011). Restrepo is one of this fine and courageous documentarian’s major achievements. His record of what it meant for U.S. soldiers to fight in the Afghan War will stand the test of time.—MHH Ignore all the …
Taking place this week and next week in Chapel Hill and Durham is the NC Latin American Film Festival, put on by the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. Tomorrow night features a screening of director Sebastián Bednarik’s Cachila: un hombre, una familia y el legado del Candombe/Cachila: a …