Who’s afraid of 12 Years a Slave?
Not audiences — strong ticket sales at the box office have proven that. However, despite some passionate fans, many Academy voters have privately confessed to being intimidated by the drama, mostly because reviews have hyped the violence as extreme and relentless. Searing? Yes. Punishing for the audience? No more than, say, Saving Private Ryan or any other honest war picture.
In our latest issue, Entertainment Weekly named director Steve McQueen one of the Entertainers of the Year. That’s not a title one would obviously bestow on the soft-spoken British filmmaker, but “entertainment” means more than escapism. In his case, he’s one of the storytellers who simply moved people the most in 2013, bringing to the screen the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free black man who found himself trapped in a place where there was no such thing.
We asked him what he would say to people who say they are intimidated by the movie, and why he thinks this has been such a strong year for films about the black experience. What McQueen wanted to talk about was how grateful he was to those who have opened themselves up the movie.