7 More Slave-Themed Films For You To Look Forward To This Year, 2013

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 9, 2013 4:42 PM
50 Comments
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Still Image From 'Twelve Years A Slave'

With just about every post on this site announcing the production of a movie centered around stories of slavery in the United States, the inevitable question asked by readers, comes in the form of something like: what's the deal with all these slave-themed movies?

Indeed... what's the deal?

To summarize a recent post in which I gave one potential answer to that quesiton - Hollywood seems to be in a *celebratory* mood, if we can call it that, honoring the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War, and those 4 years that would eventually lead to making slavery illegal in this country - USA. Although I should note that not every project is set in slavery-era USA.

For the longer explanation, feel free to read that post HERE.

Otherwise, let's move on.

If you're already exhausted by what we can call "slave movie fever," with films like Case départ, Django and Lincoln especially behind us (although conversation about those films continues - especially the last 2), you should know that there are several more on the way, scheduled to be released throughout 2013; and I thought I'd take a look at some of them (those that we're currently aware of anyway), and hopefully get your prepped and ready for the wave that's to come.

Without further ado, let me just dive right in. As previously noted, not every project is set in slavery-era USA, and there are a few that aren't Hollywood productions - some are indies; others are *foreign*.

Here we go:

1 - Of course, the one that I think we're all most aware of and even looking forward to is Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave, which stars a rather impressive cast of actors, including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael FassbenderRuth Negga, Adepero Oduye, Alfre WoodardLupita Nyong'oPaul DanoBenedict Cumberbatch, Scoot McNairyGarret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams Paul GiamattiSarah Paulson and others. No word yet on a release date for the film; but I'm expecting it to debut on the international film festival circuit - quite possibly the Cannes Film Festival - en route to other top-tier film festivals before opening in USA theaters in the early fall. I expect it to be an awards season favorite, especially in key roles both in front of and behind the camera, so a fall opening makes sense. A trailer should debut soon.

2 - It could be a big year for Chiwetel Ejiofor, thanks to the aforementioned Twelve Years A Slave, but also because he stars in the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half Of A Yellow Sun, itself also an acclaimed work that might translate into an acclaimed film, that, if released in the USA this year, could mean double kudos for Mr Ejiofor. But another slave-themed film he stars in that's expected to debut this year, is a drama titled Savannah, which also stars James Caviezel. The film is yet another historical epic, based on real events, set during post-Civil War days, in which Caviezel stars as the real-life, “well-educated, eccentric, larger-than-life hunter” named Ward Allen who develops a unique friendship with a freed slave named Christmas Moultrie, played by Ejiofor. The film is loosely based on a book by John Eugene Cay, Jr., titled, Ducks, Dogs and Friends, which tells the story of Christmas Moultrie (the last slave born on the historical Mulberry Grove Plantation, where the Cotton Gin was invented), who hunted on the Savannah River, together with Ward Allen, and his Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Our last post on this was in mid-2012, in which Vanessa noted that the film was in post-production, with a release date scheduled for sometime last year. But that never happened, as far as we know; meaning, it's likely been pushed to this year.

3. Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in Something Whispered, a tale set in 1850, which centers on a man named Samuel (Gooding), who attempts to free his family from institutionalized slavery, intent on escaping from the tobacco plantation they have been forced to call their home for two generations. Heading north towards Canada, via the Underground Railroad, they are tracked by a group of ruthless hired slave hunters. Sharon Leal co-stars, playing Cuba's wife, in a cast of dozens, that also includes William Sadler. It's being directed by Peter Cousens' whose resume is full of lots of TV work, so it could very well be a made-for-TV movie; or direct-to-video, since Cuba has done lots of direct-to-video work in recent years. Although I could be wrong, given how many slave-themed movies are expected to be released this year. As of December, the film was in post-production. No exact ETA yet.

4. Former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter stars as escaped slave Big Ben Jones, alongside Keith David as Frederick Douglass, in writer/director Thomas K. Phillips' upcoming indie feature film, The North Star, which we first alerted you to several months ago. The film is based on true events, and tells the story of Big Ben Jones, a slave who makes a daring escape from a Virginia plantation to Buckingham, PA in 1848, and gets helped by local QuakersIn addition to Trotter and David, the film's cast includes Clifton PowellMichael RapaportLynn WhitfieldMichael Jai WhiteApril WoodallJermaine Jones, and Alana LeeIt's not yet public what characters each of these other actors are playing in the film. I wonder who's playing Harriet Tubman (she's on the character list). In November, the film was listed as being in post-production. So it could very well debut, likely on the film festival circuit, some time later this year.

5. British actor/writer/director/producer Amma Asante's period drama, titled Belle, about the trials and tribulations of a mixed-race girl, in the 1700s, stars Gugu Mbatha-RawMiranda RichardsonTom Wilkinson, Sarah GadonSam Claflin, and Matthew GoodeThe story takes place in the 1780s, and is based on a true story - specifically, the true story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race woman raised as an aristocrat in 18th-century England; it follows Belle, adopted into an aristocratic family, who faces class and color prejudices. As she blossoms into a young woman, she develops a relationship with a vicar's son who is an advocate for slave emancipation. Her full name was Dido Elizabeth Belle, born 1761, died 1804; she was the illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay (a white British Naval officer) and an African slave woman known only as BelleMbatha-Raw is of course playing the lead role. The project, which was developed and supported by the British Film Institute, also co-stars Tom Felton (from the Harry Potter movies), Sam Reid (playing Belle's love interest), James Norton and Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey).  It's expected to be delivered this spring; I'm also expecting a Cannes debut for it.

6. Nicole Beharie co-stars in a Civil War drama titled The Keeping Room, alongside Olivia Wilde and Hailee SteinfeldThe film will tell the story of 3 Southern women (2 of them sisters, and the third, a slave) who are forced to defend their home in the last days of the war, against a large group of soldiers who have broken off from the Union ArmyWilde and Steinfeld will play the sisters, while Beharie will play the slave. The Keeping Room will be directed by Daniel Barber, from a script written by Julia Hart. Financing/producing will be by Wind Dancer Films (the company that also backed What Women Want). Producers call the project "cinematic, thrilling and dangerous," one that is full of "profound themes." Principal photography is set to begin in March, in North Carolina, so it may not debut this year, but it's not entirely impossible.

7. Danny Glover co-stars in the upcoming slave uprising film, Tula, The Revolt, from Dutch director Jeroen Leinders, which is based on a true story about a slave uprising on the island of Curacao, a Dutch colony in 1795, and the man called Tula, who stood up against his oppressors, and led the revolt that would last about a month. Glover leads a pack of international actors that also includes Obi AbiliJeroen Krabbé,Derek de LintHenriette Tol and Barry HayObi Abili (a UK actor of Nigerian decent) will star in the film as the titular Tula, while Glover will play Shinishi, the elder of the group, a role that the producers are calling a very important one. The film is currently in post-production, as the filmmakers hope to release it in 2013, a year that marks the 150th anniversary since slavery was finally abolished on the island of Curacao (1863). The producers are calling it an action-drama.

So that's it... for now anyway. I'm sure there are others we're not currently aware of, or that will be announced, or will debut on the film festival circuit during the year. As we learn about them, this list will be updated.

There are a few other projects that have been announced, but likely won't be released this year, if at all, since there has been no production movement on them that we know of. So I'll keep those off the list until we receive evidence that they have indeed been packaged and financed, and are ready to proceed.

And if you're one of those moaning this *celebration* of some of the most challenging, and influential times in our history, two progressive items worth mentioning that are common among most of the 7 projects above, are that: first, they are told from the POV of a character of African descent, or they tell stories that center primarily around a character of African descent. Not all of them, but most of them are. 

And secondly, for about half of them, key roles behind the camera (writer, director especially) are filled by people of African descent.

Let's see which of these lands upon us first.

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50 Comments

  • Blackman | November 18, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    These film shows whose the real SAVAGE, thief, rapist, and psycho-path. So today's modern technology being used to create bombs and other ungodly gadgetry shows they are still the savage "ice people" from Europe. In essence, they are the bad seeds. A virus that the planet will SHAKE.

  • No more guilt | August 28, 2013 7:21 AMReply

    Sorry, my white guilt ran dry about 10 years ago.

  • BlackSpirit | November 19, 2013 11:13 AM

    LIAR whites never had white guilt that's why your still killing and lynching blacks today in 2013

  • BlackSpirit | November 18, 2013 3:07 PM

    LIAR whites never had white guilt that's why your still killing and lynching blacks today in 2013

  • Reign | January 18, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    how about movies showing how slaves were not passive and the many revolts that occurred; Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey or L'ouverture Toussaint. How about showing the economics of slavery and how Whites made millions and continue to make millions from slave labor. Yes, the brutality and inhumanity of it is important, but the images of black suffrage doesn't move people or make them sympathetic...in fact, the way the films are written, it desensitizes the audience to black suffrage and paint an image that makes us look passive and docile when nothing could be further from the truth. How about a movie depicting the Double Consciousness (WEB DuBois) Black folks have in order to survive the brutality, we understand them and us and we know how to manipulate them for our sanity, but they don't know us. In fact, the double consciousness, they don't know about and it's a Gift from the Divine Creator to help the chosen people survive. How about a film that tells the story of how we were deemed not human in order to justify the evil demonic inhumanness of the slave system. What about that?

  • Moses | January 14, 2013 9:35 PMReply

    These all appear to be pretty good movies but they paint the picture of blacks being able to escape with whites helping I'll be waiting on the one that tells the truth showing the pain and suffering and the impending revolt that is ruined by a slave that spills the beans leading to the death of all those that were going to revolt and the realization of the snitch that the promise of freedom for telling was simply a lie the end. Slavery did not produce heros as much as they producd thieves and murderers.

  • anon | January 14, 2013 11:36 AMReply

    yes the dido story is very intresting I know all about her- a very intriging take on slavery as she was blue blooded and NOT a house negro. The lady who is playing her is absolutely stunning btw.

  • CareyCarey | January 13, 2013 9:57 AMReply

    BRING THEM ON! Bring them all to the theater! But first, I need to preface my comment by mentioning Meryl Streep's performance in Sophia's Choice. It is considered among the best performances in the history of film (I wholeheartedly agree). The synopsis: Sophie is the survivor of Nazi concentration camps, who has found a reason to live in Nathan, a sparkling if unsteady American Jew obsessed with the Holocaust. It was a magnificent story and Meryl Streep's performance was simply brilliant. Since Orsen Well's "The Stranger" (1946) there has been nearly 200 films related to the Holocaust... 70 produced in the USA. And nearly 200 documentaries on the same subject. So now we find ourselves on the horizon of more stories related to the black experience in America, specifically slavery and the evolution of the black man. I say, bring them on... I can't wait. I am suggesting that for the individual, the movie going journey, that insatiable appetite for going to the movies, is a unique experience that only the individual can define. Granted, there are film critics and film analysts alike who earn a living from telling others what they should, could or may be missing from watching a particular movie, but again, that's their job. They don't pay my way to the movies, nor do they control my emotions. Consequently, I will never let them or anyone define my reasons for going nor choose the movies I watch. Bring on the "slave" movies. I believe the rewards of watching them far outweigh any perceived or declared negativity. The devil is in the details and the individual.

  • starls | January 13, 2013 3:29 AMReply

    I truly can't wait to see the NorthStar..this movie have an amazing cast n true story..its something for our youth to look toward too..n learn something. .so excited

  • Mike Wiley | January 12, 2013 2:17 PMReply

    Don't forget Box Brown the movie. http://www.facebook.com/BoxBrownMovie?ref=hl

  • Askia Toure' | January 12, 2013 3:39 AMReply

    Nadell, you might not have received the message. Danny Glover received funding for his forth-coming film on the Haitian Revolution, from the people of Venasuela in South America. So he's
    now busy at work on his serious film. Some good news for you. Danny learned that he had to go beyond Hollywood, if he were to make a serious, independent Black historical epic!

  • Donella | January 13, 2013 3:26 PM

    According to Wikipedia Glover received close to $28 million. I'm greatly looking forward to the film's release.

  • Nadell | January 11, 2013 10:52 AMReply

    It has become a horrid trend! The success of "Django" and I would even say "The Help" has gained the momentum of all these slave/white-hero films. Yet films like "Toussaint" never garner the attention and funding because it shows the flip-we-don't-want-folks-to-know-there-were-black-heros-during-slavery side.
    It will almost take an act of Congress for films about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Stagecoach Mary or any other black hero or heroine because it is direct opposition to the 'Hollywood' message that perpetuates.

  • starry118 | January 11, 2013 5:48 PM

    Amen.

  • Oni Luv | January 10, 2013 8:34 PMReply

    The word is "enslaved" and when we gonna see more white folks "enslaved"...Africans were not the only people in the universe who were "enslaved"! The "slavic" nations in Europe were also enslaved. True, American slavery was the most demonic on the planet and adds fuel to the fire of racism that still exist. Hollyweirds subliminal message to tell their story of empowerment now that a African/European man is in the slave build house. When will Tyler Perry do something historic to uplift people with a all black cast of free Africans? The best slave movie I ever saw as a fiction was Nighjohn, a Disney movie that at least put real value on a people who were in bondage. When will anyone do a movie about NAT TURNER, DENMARK VESSEY or JOHN BROWN! Maybe I will have to do it....yawl wit me?

  • Dani | January 14, 2013 9:58 PM

    With you! Love the correct term!

  • starry118 | January 11, 2013 5:49 PM

    Amen...I'm wit ya

  • donnadara | January 10, 2013 6:18 PMReply

    I would also accept Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman if they don't have the obligatory white savior.

  • Donella | January 11, 2013 6:23 PM

    The best part about Douglass is his Autobiography is public domain. No permission needed. No white savior since Douglass beat down the overseer and freed himself then worked to free others. That doesn't mean that Hollywood won't create a fictional White savior to make the story more marketable. It may take an overseas producer and distributor to tell the story clearly.

  • donnadara | January 10, 2013 6:12 PMReply

    Give me my Obama biopic, and put the shackles down.

  • starry118 | January 11, 2013 5:51 PM

    @Donnadara: I'd love to see an Obama biopic...have wondered who could play him.

  • Bondgirl | January 10, 2013 6:36 PM

    Obama is a little too obvious a subject, which is why I'd like to see a film on Michelle. Even Hilary Clinton is getting her biopic done before her husband.

  • afrika oye | January 10, 2013 3:08 PMReply

    i think it is not so much the "slave"movies part but, rather, (it's a bitch) how the formula works. in other words, if you can make one and it looks like it's going to be a hit then, some people would think, why not make more. i believe it is why studio heads go running in search of "good" scripts of a particular kind.

    if i recall well, blaxploitation movies because of that bad mofo named shaft, which was inspired by van peebles sweet sweetback's baadasssss song, itself may be a blaxpo movie may be not. what matters is that it was successful and so other were rushed out to cash in.

  • cruz777 | January 10, 2013 12:40 PMReply

    the one i will actively stay away from is #6, The Keeping Room. i'm sick and tired of the theme

  • esho | January 11, 2013 2:25 AM

    A slave who helps her mistresses protect their plantation at the end of the Civil War? No thanks!

  • getthesenets | January 10, 2013 11:05 AMReply

    and for the record...thought the appropriate term was "ensalved Africans" or "ensalved people"..and NOT "slaves"

  • Bondgirl | January 10, 2013 6:32 PM

    I agree, and thanks for the reminder. Reminds me of what Malcolm X said, " If a cat has offsprings in an oven, are they kittens or biscuits?"

  • Daniel | January 10, 2013 6:09 PM

    Yes! Finally! We (including white people) have to consider how we contextualize our past and our present. Our ancestors were not slaves, they were enslaved, victims of slavery. The actors in the films mentioned above are not playing slaves, they are playing characters who have been enslaved. It's also interesting to note how only one of the films is about resistance. And we can't continue to use "white gate-keepers" as an excuse for why we don't tell the stories we want to tell.

  • Josh | January 10, 2013 12:37 AMReply

    I really would like to see a movie on the spy rings that existed among slaves during the war. Most of the documentation was destroyed to protect them after the war.

  • Hassan Fvckry (@DLYDJ) | January 9, 2013 11:38 PMReply

    You can honestly count me in for a few of these films. But the one I'm really anticipating is "12 Years A Slave," as I have high hopes for a genuinely deep story to be told starring a Black man in a leading role. I have yet to see "Django Unchained," but I will see it eventually. Until then, "12 Years" is on my must-watch list.

  • QBN | January 9, 2013 10:53 PMReply

    Unless these films end with Black folks killing all the evil slavemasters, I'm not trying to see it..

  • LeonRaymond | January 9, 2013 9:17 PMReply

    I Know it's coming, and I can feel it it in my Bones - A Slave with Super powers who can levitate, Bend spoons and at night frees himself so he can go around and free and uplift other slaves. And then return to shackles before dawn.

    Come on you know your waiting for this

  • Monique a Williams | January 15, 2013 4:37 PM

    That's a movie I'd help fund! #indiegogo

  • LEONRAYMOND | January 10, 2013 5:19 PM

    @SWEETA Aw Man , Your a Genius, that's an excellent name for the title !!! (Computer Keys typing away)

  • Sweeta | January 10, 2013 11:07 AM

    Will the title be SupaNigga Unchained!...then Rechained???

  • Bee | January 9, 2013 11:08 PM

    LOL. You crack me up.

  • FactChecker | January 9, 2013 9:17 PMReply

    Tambey, you mean, "commemorative" not "celebratory." ... Your welcome. :-)

  • K | January 9, 2013 7:39 PMReply

    This is exciting. I love that here are so many films about black people. Granted they are historical, but we must start somewhere! Maybe 2014 will be the year some black women(and men), more than one, can be nominated for some major awards!

  • Blackman | January 9, 2013 6:33 PMReply

    12years a slave is going to bomb at the Box Office. nobody is going to see Africans play African American slaves. Even though Africans look like how We USED to look when we got here. true. but there were REASONS African Americans were SELECTED (cherry-picked) by ole funk and stank massa & his wimmenz

  • getthesenets | January 10, 2013 11:03 AM

    blackman,

    hopefully you are trying to be sarcastic. first time I read your thread I thought perhaps it went over my head, that you were referencing a film,show,skit,bit or clip that I wasn't aware of. no adult could possibly be so foolish to think and say what you said and mean it literally.might be over 18, but you're no adult. ----

  • Nemesis | January 10, 2013 4:16 AM

    LOL! Cherry picked!! You remind me of an old boyfriend who was quite surprised (and a little hurt, I think) to attend a party with at least 90% Nigerians in attendance. He voiced his shock that they didn't look... African! To him, all Africans (except me, because he obviously thought he'd nabbed himself a prize - and I was supposed to be flattered, no doubt) had a certain "look." I found it amusing, because I often find myself gazing at African-Americans, West Indians, and others from the diaspora, and seeing something vaguely familiar about them... Like they're distance relatives or long lost cousins of Africans (usually Nigerian or Ghanaian) I actually know. Sometimes the resemblance is uncanny... spooky almost, given the role history played. Yes, there was some selection going on at the auction blocks and other slave-trading transactions, but that was usually for purposes of health, fitness and ability to the tasks they were being purchase for, field work, craft/trade work, domestic, sex... Trust me, y'all ain't no "special" looking negroes.

  • getthesenets | January 9, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    oh yeah ...F Pat Robertson

  • getthesenets | January 9, 2013 6:01 PMReply

    NO, that film was done on French TV and in several documentariesin Kreyol,French and English. Just not realistic that a film about the Haititan revolution will come through the Hollywood pipeline....no white hero, or helper exists in the story...you can't schindler's list-ify the story.Also very very long and complicated story..even a 3 hour hollywood film would have difficulty covering it. --In keeping with the point in the article about timing...2004 would have been the ideal time for any film about Haitian revolution or history to come out..the bicentenial.-----

  • Bee | January 9, 2013 11:09 PM

    Good point. I agree.

  • Wanett | January 9, 2013 5:58 PMReply

    These all actually seem like interesting stories, to me. Slavery was a part of our history. If there were a ton of stories that spoke to the tragedies of another people, somebody would say where are the stories about slavery.

    Only time will tell if the works are actually good, but I'm willing to wait and see.

  • No | January 9, 2013 5:28 PMReply

    What happened to the film about the greatest slave revolt of all times, in Haiti? The story of Toussaint L'overture? That's the one I'm waiting for.

  • starry118 | January 11, 2013 6:00 PM

    Yes...I've been looking forward to this film for some time.

  • Luce | January 9, 2013 8:39 PM

    S&A already talked alot about Philip Niang's Toussaint Louverture, like Getthesenets mentioned. And yes, Danny Glover couldn't get financing for his own haitian Revolution because old white gatekeepers - i learn to use this from this website :) They somehow wanted a white hero somewhere in a story where there was none.

  • Aaron | January 9, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    No Harriet Tubman? No Nat Turner? No Gullah Wars story? I'll pass on Hollywood's subliminal message reminder to black people.

  • Bee | January 9, 2013 11:10 PM

    Yup. I feel where you're coming from. Although, I'm interested in seeing Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.

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