I have to be honest and admit that you guys mystify at times. The reactions from S & A readers to certain pieces sometimes surprises. It doesn’t go the way one would expect. You’re a wacky bunch. (And I say that with love, of course)
Take for example, the recent piece in which a regular reader told us of their reaction, and those of the some of the audience, to a test screening of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave - HERE.
Some of you got quite upset and even accused the reader of making it up. Far from the case, there was an actual test screening (actually two in the area), and I know exactly the theater where the screening was held that the reader was in. In fact there have been several across the country.
However, several of you couldn’t believe that there would be black people who didn’t like a film about slavery. Why wouldn’t you believe that?
It all goes back to my recent piece about whether there is an audience for a serious, honest film about slavery to which I said there isn’t and I stand by that.
But once again, as I stated in my piece, don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see McQueen’s film and I am so glad that it got made. And, as I also said, I truly hope that I am completely wrong and the film is a success at the box office.
But let’s face it, the film has a tough road to hoe, and there’s going to be A LOT of resistance by people to see it. Lets be honest here, folks.
So with that, here is an e-mail that I personally received from another loyal S& A reader, who attended a test preview of the film in another city, and, this time, with a predominantly black audience, and the results were… well you can read for yourself below, completely unedited.
Though he did tell me that he was "upset that the audience was immature to the narrative".
But he starts off by answering my question - if moviegoers are ready for an honest realistic film about slavery…
There is not.
This past Tuesday, I saw a sneak preview of "12 Years A Slave", and it was with a majority black audience. I was so disgusted at the commentary and the fact that people were laughing at some parts.
Now, I'm not an overly serious person when it comes to some films about slavery. There are some things you have to take with a grain of salt, but being a devoted fan of McQueen's work, I was prepared for it to be hurt.
The film was so heavy and, not traumatizing, but frustrating -- in a good way. And that's how you know he is doing his job, and doing it damn well. Particularly given the nature of the narrative, you would think that there would be some empathy amongst the audience. There was none. It ruined the film for me and it also hurt me. This is a film for the ages, to the point where this is a film that should be shown to classrooms all around the nation to truly expose the horrors of slavery. Roots was heavy, but it does make the aforementioned look -- well, I will just say it brings a new perspective to slavery.
Now, I loved Django Unchained, and I appreciate how Tarantino used his talent as an auteur to create such a distinguishing piece of cinema. However, it is in no way a replacement or commentary of history. Not sure if you noticed, but a lot of those slaves had free time on their hands. Playing on swings? Seriously? I was confused. And the one who obviously had a perm, but they tried to make it look "natural" and failed?
There was one genius at the screening that truly believed Django Unchained was a true story. Yes, maybe there were individuals like Django that existed, but that's not how it was marketed, that's not how it was sold, and as far as I'm aware, that is not true. The fact that they were comparing the two movies worried me. I hope to God she wasn't an educator. And if she is, the future generations are in big trouble.
Anyway, I do think 12 Years...if released at the proper time, will do well. It's a solid film with brilliant performances. Chiwetel (Ejiofor) was just amazing beyond comprehension, as was (Michael) Fassbender. They play incredibly well off of each other.
With that, like I said, I completely agree with you on the fact that audiences, and black audiences in particular, are not ready to see this film. It saddens me to no end that this is a reality. Yes, it is unfortunate that sometimes we are only relegated to this type of story in order to have some talent on the screen and behind the scenes. However, this is a story that needed to be told. And McQueen was the only person that could do it. For that effort, he deserves to have this be a box office success. I hope it works in his favor.