Early Reactions To 'Twelve Years A Slave' Suggest Average Black Audiences Won't Like It

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 22, 2013 12:12 PM
80 Comments
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A film I'm eagerly-anticipating this year, which we believe will likely premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave - one of 7 more slave-themed films I highlighted in a January post, that we can expect some time this year.

It's a film whose title was mentioned often in discussions about Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, although, from what we know of McQueen's film, there's very little to compare between both films, other than they're both set during a time before slavery was outlawed in this country (the USA). But the narratives of each film, as well as the motivations of the filmmakers behind each film, are very different.

As we wait for an announcement on when McQueen's film will make its debut, as well as for a glimpse at the film, via a trailer, clips, or some official stills, test screenings of the film are currently taking place in a few cities across the USA, and some of our readers attended those test screenings and shared their reactions with us, although, more specifically, the reactions that attending audiences had to the film. So, no spoilers here.

I won't post every email I received, because they all had very similar reactions, but I thought this one was especially interesting in its focus on how black people in the audience received the film. So, check it out below.

As I told my comrades here at S&A, I'm sure Twelve Years A Slave will generate a lot of discussion within the black community. I certainly don't expect it to make anywhere near the box office that Django Unchained did. Not because of its quality - McQueen doesn't disappoint - but, again, these are 2 very different films (one was made strictly to entertain; the other - while its story of perseverance and triumph will move and even entertain you - will most certainly challenge you in ways the other did not). As I said a couple of months, if you were overwhelmed by the so-called realistic, disturbing violence in Django Unchained, you're not ready for Twelve Years A Slave, which, if you're familiar with McQueen's past work, and you've read the novel its based on, or read the script, is far more brutal than anything Tarantino showed you.

But, I'm looking forward to seeing it this year finally!  Depending on who the distributor is, and what kind of marketing push it gets, Chiwetel Ejiofor could very well be in the mix for Best Actor during awards season next year; and obviously, Steve McQueen for Best Director. There could also be some Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress roles as well.

Without further ado, here's one reader-submitted reaction to reactions to the test screening of the film:

I'm a regular reader on your amazing site. I just wanted to let you know that I saw 12 years a Slave at a test screening. Technically, I can't say anything about it, but I just felt the need to write to you about it since it is heavily anticipated amongst the readers and creators of your site. It wasn't quite finished, it was a little long and still needs editing. However, I did enjoy it a lot. What I wanted to write about were the reactions of the crowd. The crowd was very diverse. I would say most of them were average movie-goers. There were also quite a few Black people in the crowd and of course cinephiles and film students. It seemed like a lot of Blacks (at least the ones that I was paying attention to) didn't like it. I mean the film is brutal and really dives into the horrors of slavery. There were no Black women dressed up like pets and there was no Dr. King Schultz (a White guy that the White audience could identify with as being cool and not a racist). Not to say all the White characters were evil racists, just saying there was no White Savior that had a huge part. The story was mostly Solomon's and really focused on Slave life. So I understand that it was going to be uncomfortable for many. A lot of Blacks lambasted it for not being inspirational or for not being fun and being too brutal. There were a few who have seen McQueen's previous films who liked it, but the majority of them did not. I guess they wanted a nicer sugar coated story like The Help or a fun Blaxploitation film like Django. I guess this just brings me to say what do we want? I mean not all Black people think alike or act the same. We are all different, but if we are shaking our heads at a more serious film about slavery then I'm just dumbfounded. I guess what I'm trying to say is maybe We are part of the problem with diversity among Black films. I mean if Black people do not want to see a serious film about slavery then why would anyone else? Why don’t we just fill the theatres with Tyler Perry's films and films like The Help or Jumping the Broom? Is that fair? We have many different stories to be told and I don’t think we should be subjected to just 3 or 4 types of films. Of course most of the Audience were average movie goers who have not seen Shame or Hunger. 12 Years a Slave would probably play better with the art-house crowd. Whites have the luxury of being the majority (in more ways than one) so it's much easier for them to have a diverse range of films. I just wanted to reflect a bit that's all and give my thoughts. Oh and I’m not saying that the film had a negative reception. Overall it was positively received. I just wanted to focus in on the reception from Blacks. I almost forgot, the N-word was dropped a lot. I know a lot of people were up in arms about that in Django.

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80 Comments

  • Brad | April 28, 2013 3:15 PMReply

    Twelve Years a Slave is NOT A NOVEL - it is a slave narrative published in the 1850s. One of many at that. Novels are fiction...the story of Solomon Northrup is all too true.

  • gavla | March 9, 2013 6:25 AMReply

    This was a terrible, boring article

  • eggton | March 5, 2013 12:50 AMReply

    "obviously, Steve McQueen for Best Director."

    Why's that then? His debut, Hunger, was grandstanding, shallow and massively over-hyped. The second one, Shame, bombed critically and commercially, rightly making many "worst of the year" lists. The idea of this puffed-up fame-whore tackling the issue of slavery is almost too hideous to contemplate. In any case, Tarantino hit the nail on the head already with the excellent Django.

  • Gavla | March 9, 2013 6:23 AM

    Yeah you are so wrong, Hunger was unflinching, uncompromising and vivid, it's an outstanding debut film. Shame did NOT bomb critically I have no idea where you're getting that from, it features stellar performances from Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan and is a powerful plunge into the mania of addiction affliction. As for commericially, it grossed $17,000,000, and it's budget was $6.5 million, if you can do any sort of maths that's a profit. I also havnt seen Shame on a single "worst of the year" list. Micah is right both Django and 12 Years are going to be 2 very different films.

  • Micah | March 5, 2013 3:58 AM

    I don't know if Steve McQueen kicked your puppy or pissed in your cornflakes. A lot of your statements about him are not factual and unnecessarily nasty. I can understand if his films didn't personally resonate with you but Shame was a critical hit. It reviews were overwhelmingly positive. It still holds a 80 % fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In hunger he tackle a very tense and complicated time in Ireland's history dead on from a key player's perspective. I don't know what nail you feel Django hit on the head. If you're saying it was entertaining that's fine. However it's a vastly different film than this one about a TRUE (ACTUAL) african american that freed HIMSELF.

  • Terraformer | February 27, 2013 12:03 PMReply

    "average black audiences won't like it"
    WTF. . . If I were black I'd be massively offended by that. Can anyone explain to me what an average black audience member is like?
    PEOPLE will like it judged on their personal tastes, not on SKIN colour. Article writer needs a good slap
    - See more at: http://prometheusforum.net/discussion/4533/twelve-years-a-slave#Item_4

  • lilkunta | February 27, 2013 12:03 PMReply

    @No Brainer For you to compare slavery to a toothache is absolutely horrible and ignorant. Please dont ever do that again.

    NO BRAINER | February 24, 2013 3:09 AM
    This is why Hollywood doesn't touch slavery films. They know black folks better than black folks know themselves. They know people like you crowd the community, people who think they know how bad slavery was and a film focused in that area is limited to a vague theme like "slavery was awful." Yes, slavery was awful, but so is a toothache. It the story is told.....

  • dreamer | February 27, 2013 9:18 PM

    Apparently No Brainer is quite the appropriate username for you.

  • lilkunta | February 27, 2013 12:00 PMReply

    tambay : please change this post title. This isnt 'ealy reactions', this is ONE PERSON's reaction. And the film wasnt finished.

  • starry118 | February 25, 2013 6:42 PMReply

    I have to say, I'm disappointed with Shadow and Act for framing the discussion about this film in this way ... very, very disappointed ... that is all.

  • Micah | February 26, 2013 6:41 AM

    While I love the guys at S&A and will continue to support them, I share you concern of the need to raise the level of discourse. Sometimes I feel their passion clouds their better judgement. This is a rare place on the internet where you can find even a modicum of deep and thoughtful discussion of black cinema. In regards to the film, I sincerely hope general audiences will give it a chance. Steve Mcqueen is an extremely talented director, regardless of how you feel about the subject matter of his previous film. The cast is also very respectable. If these elements are any indication of the quality of the actual film, we are in for a treat.

  • Maya | February 26, 2013 2:34 AM

    They're no better than a gossip site at this point. They're doing it for 'hits'. If they were to write a post about people liking the film they wouldn't get the hits. Negativity brings controversy which brings them hits. Sad. They'll come back with yet another 'negative' reaction email. You'll see.

  • Temi Olutunmbi | February 25, 2013 11:44 AMReply

    Post more reactions. I want to know more.

  • NO BRAINER | February 24, 2013 2:52 AMReply

    Still with your Oscar predictions. You never get it right...lol.

  • RawStylist | June 28, 2013 8:18 AM

    I worked as a hairstylist on this beautiful written film, it was the best experience of my career. More films as such need to be made because our kids are not learning it (our history) in school so kudos to everyone who took part in this film. It was hard to watch at times but we made it through so let's all go out and support it!

  • julian steptoe | February 23, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    The "slave film", as a genre, serves more to educate, than to entertain, the general movie goer. In addition, the Black audience is reminded of the root of many perso.al dilemmas and delivered a personal impact. Quentin's film soundly achieves all three traits. It is an extraordinary film. Indeed, the value of all such films lies in their capacity to inspire discussion and movement towards reparations, as its due is curative of major, real, social and personal problems. For this purpose, I champion the release of tjese seven.films

  • Britgirlblack | February 23, 2013 5:02 AMReply

    I've never thought of S&A readers as your average movie goer, thus the title infers a sense of snobbery as well as the email it's self

  • lil nut | February 23, 2013 12:15 AMReply

    all u pea-brained-short-sighted fuckas talking ill about spike need to keep his name out ya mouths! the man is a legend who has single-handedly EARNED the right to like or not like whatever he chooses. WE LOVE U SPIKE! thanks for big upping black folks for 20+ years!

  • Brian | February 23, 2013 12:03 AMReply

    Readers of the site should now know to never email your opinion to any editors or creators of this site. It's funny how the title of the post suggested that the emailer used the term "Average Black Audiences" when the term that was used was "average moviegoer". A lot of people are average movie goers, which is perfectly fine. We all have hobbies. As CareyCarey said I understand what the person was trying to say even if it was misconstrued by the title of this post.

  • Shantel | February 22, 2013 10:37 PMReply

    "So now we have a visitor who was kind enough (and maybe mis-informed enough) to share her thoughts with Tambay... which found its way to this board. Oh lord, I can't help but believe she couldn't have known all hell would break loose. Little did she know (I'm assuming, now) that her every word would be picked and poked and analyzed to death."

    I agree, I'm not going to pick apart someone's opinion apart when the editors of this site are the ones who decided to post it. For all we know the person could be a teenager.

  • Poe | February 22, 2013 10:16 PMReply

    But, is it fair to judge the entire black community of film goers by the reactions of a small sporadic few black faces in an audience. This appears to be what many are doing in the comments as well as in the email above. I am open to the film and WANT to see it. People of African descent are not monolithic in thought and behavior despite what whomever may want to think----not all posters here are of African descent! Oh well...

  • AccidentalVisitor | February 22, 2013 10:13 PMReply

    Without knowing the quality of the film whatsoever I still am not surprised by this one individual's view of the interpretation (if accurate) of the black audience's reaction.

    You know the old saying if "America has a cold, black people have a fever"? Well, to put it in a film perspective, if the movie preferences of Americans in general are shallow, simplistic, uncomplicated and safe, black audiences take it to a whole other level of depravity.

    I'm just being real. I can name quite a few black folks who love to tackle what I view as more challenging movies. But they are the clear minority. Most black people I come across have no tolerance for subtitles, complicated plot structures and characters, open-ended interpretations, social realism, untidy endings and subtlety. Now again...to be fair....these traits may be found in most Americans overall. But with black folks the roots are deeper and more troublesome. We feast on junk. Junk food. Junk literature. Junk cinema.

    When I worked a year at a video store during my first year in college, I'll admit it was difficult to get most customers interested in renting foreign films and independent movies. But my black customers presented the most difficult challenge. Anything out of their comfort zone was a no-no. There were some rare exceptions. And some others who would attempt to broaden their minds if the non-Hollywood films centered around black characters. But if those particular films came across as too foreign, if they traversed filmic territory that the viewers weren't used to, they ended up being disappointed in those movies and at times made uncomfortable by them. And if those flicks were in a foreign language? Good God, that was too much to ask. I was told countless times by the black customers that they didn't want to "read a film".

    In my post-video store days I still hear that term from black co-workers and friends when I mention foreign language movies full of subtitles. And then there are the sideway glances amongst each other as they wonder what this idioic black man is doing watching subtitle movies about poor, desperate characters living in urban Turkey. They ask why I would watch something like that instead of a Tyler Perry film. I don't try to convince these folks to check out mot of the films I watch; it would be pointless. These individuals tend to only see loud Hollywood mainstream flicks, silly Hollywood comedies, and low-brow small budget black movies (often with a heavy Christian theme) geared to a black mainstream audience.

    So, no, most of these people probably wouldn't be interested in "Twelve Years". They don't want to see suffering of black characters, often explaining this by saying they go through enough pain in their own lives. They want feel-good films with clear, moral messages. They want neat and happy endings. They want simple shots and even more simpler storylines with characters who are not shades of grey, but more black and white. They want "positive" characters doing "positive" things. And they want TV-lighting that makes all the black people look perfect and pretty in their perfect and pretty clothing. And many have no desire to see slavery depicted on screen. Plenty of them wangted nothing to do with Django; one even asked me why I would want to see any movie that tackled the subject of slavery.

    Well to these particular folks "Django Unchained" may likely be as light as a Star Wars flick in comparison to Twelve Years. At least Django Unchained had almost all of the black women looking as if they had just walked out of today's beauty salons. I'm guessing that is not how the black women will look in Steve's movie. Very darkskinned black women with natural hair that hadn't seen any beauty combs and in clothing that is not much more than rags. Black people want NOTHING to do with that. They don't want to see that on their screens. Black people also don't want to see representation of just how bad it may have been for their forebearers,. Forebearers who for the most part were not in a position to fight back. They want something like John Singleton's "Rosewood" instead which took a tragic tale based on real life events and turned it into some John Wayne flick with Ving Rhames playing the cowboy riding to the rescue while taking on the white mob.

  • Bee | February 24, 2013 2:46 AM

    CareyCarey and AccidentalVistor, great comments! I'm not sure what I would add, but I agree with what you both wrote. I've found myself troubled by the movie taste of many of my black friends and family, and I have been considered the weird one because of my interest in all sorts of indie and foreign films (as well as the occasional Hollywood film). But, surprisingly, I've turned a few folks on to some of the "weird" films that I like. I find that with a lot of black folks, it's all a matter of getting them to sit down to one "weird" film and than talking about it afterwards. I try not to judge folks for their taste in what I consider totally lame mainstream films, but sometimes it's hard not to judge. Anyway, thanks for your comments. I share your sentiments.

  • CareyCarey | February 22, 2013 11:40 PM

    Accidental Visitor, that was an excellent example and a spot on analysis of the thang called "the average black audience". And, I can relate.

    In the early days of dating my present woman, she got in my car after I had just picked up a load of movies/DVD's. Based on your depiction of the average movie goer, she's definitely one of them (and there's nothing wrong with that). But later in our relationship, she felt comfortable enough to tell me that she thought (upon meeting me) that I was weird because of my movie taste.

    Listen, I wouldn't consider myself a film snob nor a bougie-ass negro, but because of my family's early connection to films in the USA, I've acquired a taste, a thirst, and the understanding of all films in the African Diaspora (and their need). Consequently, I think it's safe to say I am not in the crowd of the average movie audience.

    Does that make me "better" than anyone inside that circle? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I just like what I like, while trying NOT to judge others for favoring movies that some would consider to be loaded with less-than-complicated plot structures and characters.

    So, in short, I understand the essence... the gist of our visitor's email to Tambay.

    "I agree, I'm not going to pick apart someone's opinion apart when the editors of this site are the ones who decided to post it. For all we know the person could be a teenager" ~ Shantel

  • CareyCarey | February 22, 2013 10:06 PMReply

    Kilgore: Smell that? You smell that?
    Lance: What?
    Kilgore: Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.
    [kneels]
    Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like
    [sniffing, pondering]
    Kilgore: victory. Someday this war's gonna end...

    When I think of Shadow & Act I am reminded of that quote. I change the word napalm to - CON-TRO-VER-SY. And I love the smell of controversy in the morning.

    Now excuse me while I HIP HIP HOORAY for S&A because it knows what side its bread is buttered on. That be the controversial issues surrounding everything related to -- as MsWoo said -- Covering Cinema of and about the African Diaspora.

    So now we have a visitor who was kind enough (and maybe mis-informed enough) to share her thoughts with Tambay... which found its way to this board. Oh lord, I can't help but believe she couldn't have known all hell would break loose. Little did she know (I'm assuming, now) that her every word would be picked and poked and analyzed to death.

    But, as I said, I love the smell of napalm (and controversy) and this is what we do at S&A. We blow shit up. Let me count the ways.... The Help... Django... Scandal... everything slave related... Spike Lee... things white people do... Tyler Perry...

    But in the end, I am reminded of what Angie Stone said:

    [Controversy of the black diaspora] It'd be the kind of habit you don't wanna break, and aggravation you don't mind takin'. An argument or two, well and that's ok cuz (Cuz it really don't matter what he's sayin') Cuz it goes in one ear and out the other. You gon' make up anyway under the covers (See, you don't really want much). But you know, but you know, but you know 'bout that, cha'll

  • Mark and Darla | February 22, 2013 9:59 PMReply

    FADE IN

    INT. TYLER PERRY PLAY ROOM - ATLANTA - DAY

    Large screen television is on; Tyler relaxes comfortably in his recliner munching gourmet popcorn, sipping champagne, cell phone rings.

    TYLER
    Dude what's up...

    QUENTIN
    Your people at it again...

    TYLER
    What people, and what do you mean
    'your people' niggar done tell you don't
    be talking to me like that.

    QUENTIN
    Tyler just joking, just love it when
    you call me niggar, give me goose
    bumos

    TYLER
    You crazy.

    QUENTIN
    Forgot what I call for, oh yeah
    Shadow and Act.

    TYLER
    Oh the 'WE HATE TYLER PERRY'
    blog, what are the fools saying.

    Quentin laughs.

    QUENTIN
    Steve McQueen '12 years a slave' moving
    screening and how black people not going
    to like it.

    TYLER
    What's that got to do with us.

    QUENTIN
    Our name is all over this post, we are
    their whipping boys when something
    ain't gonna go right with an intellectual
    black movie coming out.

    TYLER
    Same old argument, well me and Madea say
    FUCK'EM ALL.

    QUENTIN
    (grinning)
    Yeah baby, hey Tyler lets get together and
    make a movie'

    TYLER
    Sound good.

    QUENTIN
    Can you imagine if the movie is success and
    win a Oscar.

    TYLER
    That will be the HOLY GRILL, people on
    Shadow and Act will hunt us down and kill us.

    Laughter erupts

    TYLER
    Talk later man.

    QUENTIN
    Check back with you soon.

    Cell phones click off, Tyler exhales, lie back relax singing to his self.

    TYLER
    (snapping his fingers)
    I got the world on a string, dada dada, I did it my way, dada dada.

    FADE OUT

  • CC | February 22, 2013 10:20 PM

    As one does at a poetry reading, I'm snapping my fingers.

  • Blackman | February 22, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    If it is not BRUTAL, NASTY, AND FILLED WITH PSYCHOTIC White people doing all the God Awful HATEFUL things to the New Africans in America. Then this film is Trash.

    White people DO NOT want to tell on themselves.

  • QT | February 22, 2013 5:09 PMReply

    Thank you dumb black people in these comments continuing to drop Django every time another black film is mentioned. I couldnt be as successful as I am today if I didn't realize that black people in America constantly measure everything they do or other black people do against white people. For that I say you will never win as long as you play our game.

  • Bee | February 24, 2013 2:36 AM

    "black people in America constantly measure everything they do or other black people do against white people. For that I say you will never win as long as you play our game." Exactly. That is the heart of the problem!

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 4:55 PMReply

    This reader-submitted reaction is pure propaganda. What did the viewer enjoy about it and why wouldn't other less sophisticated blacks? It is a complete echoing of subjective opinions shared on this blog. To suggest that all black films released every year can fit in under 4 categories expresses a lack of historical film context. From a commercial standpoint articles like this make me feel more comfortable visiting this site as I know that you guys are willing to do whatever you have to do to stay open to core the topics you and we want you to. This however is not one of them. Every time someone creates something only time can tell. This viewers prognostications can be used to sway a few from watching this film. The subjective dilemma perpetuates itself when other sites that cover this angle use this topic for traffic. It doesn't have to be this email but the cast of doubt on an audience that hasn't viewed the content is ridiculous and almost inflammatory. No matter how many nice things thy can say about McQueen.

  • LeonRaymond | February 22, 2013 2:41 PMReply

    This person hit it right on the head. a Black audience is far too schizoid to appreciate a film that is honest and okay yes brutal, not very film can be sugar coated but it appears that's what Black audiences want -don't you dare hold a mirror up to them or else you will suffer the fate of so many. A work of art that depicts is not what Black folk want. They did not want the Great Debater's which was served with joyous tone. Django no matter how good was a cartoon. It was set out to be anything other than a very well thought out cartoon. You could almost substitute AVATAR for DJANGO cause both were cartoons. A real heart felt historical story that deals with tones of slavery is something that should be seen. But I know the person who went to see the film was right on point. Let's just make nothing but Tyler Perry Movies and Help Sequels and Black audiences will be fine!

  • Bee | February 24, 2013 2:35 AM

    Leonraymond, unfortunately I agree with your comment. I don't know what's wrong with us, to be honest. Smh. Years of miseducation, I suppose.

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 5:35 PM

    Let's get real. You do realize that every movie is fake. Which shatters any attempt at realistic depiction. All movies are fake. All actors are faking it. Whether you are watching someone being whipped or having sex if it is in a movie it is fake. Porn is criticized for being cheesy and fake yet they are actually having sex. They are not in the movies. Movies are fake what we learn from movies is fake. You may be positively inspired but ultimately the facts portrayed should not be taken serious especially since no one involved with most of these movies actually existed in any capacity during the time of events like this.

  • Aaron | February 22, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    Well since the viewer thinks that the average black audience will not like it then they will just love "Tyler Perry Presents........Madea Tubman: A Sassy Slave Narrative". Hellur Massa!!!

  • Maya | February 22, 2013 2:32 PMReply

    Okay, I was at a test screening in L.A. last night - McQueen was there, too - and as I was reading that person's emailed account of Black people's reaction to the movie, all I could think of was how the hell does he/she know WTF "the Black" people were thinking? If the audience was mixed, as they stated, and I'm assuming the theater wasn't a tiny one, then how can you know what the consensus was among ONE group of people?

    In my theater, that would've been impossible. As someone previously stated, before screening the film you wait in line for what seems like forever and there you get a chance to meet people standing near you and listen to nearby conversations but once you're in the theater and the movie starts and ends, you're filling out the questionnaire afterward and it's just not possible to gauge the response to the movie by ONE particular race of people as though they were all sitting together and then huddled up in a post viewing discussion. I mean, as a person who sat there in a large theater with a mixed audience, myself, I just don't see how on earth I would've been able to tell you what it seemed like all the Black folks thought of the film. Shoot, I can't tell you what on earth all the white people thought of the film and I was surrounded by them in my row. And of course, while you're walking out of the theater you hear bits of conversation from people around you but it would've been to a far lesser extent at the screening since people were finishing their questionnaires at different times and thus leaving the theater in trickles rather than in bulk like normal movie-going. Sorry, but that email doesn't wash with me.

  • Agent K | February 23, 2013 3:12 AM

    I don't think this person's views are invalid because he/she made a generalization or two.

  • Gnashing My Teeth | February 22, 2013 11:45 PM

    Glad you found it hilarious, especially when the joke is on you. Keep on policing this thread and enjoy your day of fame. This post will be irrelevant come Monday morning :) And what exactly are you going to do about that??? Not A DAMN THANG.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 8:03 PM

    Gnashing my teeth, I find your post hilarious. Are you mad? If so, what exactly are you going to do about it??? LMAO. Let me guess absolutely NOTHING.

  • Gnashing My Teeth | February 22, 2013 7:35 PM

    MAYA is definitely on point! Ok, this person sent his or her thoughts to the writer, but do these thoughts warrant this post? THIS TITLE? PLEASE! Who is this person that sent this email? What weight does he or she hold that they think their undeveloped thoughts are worthy of discussion? You could have emailed anyone in the world, but you decided to email this nonsense to the editor of Shadow &Act. Stop it! Feeding egos! You knew what you were doing! Did the writer of this article think we would just read it and not question the source and the emailer's motive?...And Lisa, sit down. Your name is everywhere. Give it a rest.

  • monkeysuit | February 22, 2013 7:14 PM

    I just wanted to say that Maya is on point. Generalizations are running all through that email.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 5:36 PM

    Well if you read, then you would know that we're not supposed to talk about the movie..um but I guess you didn't :-(

  • Reason | February 22, 2013 5:30 PM

    Maybe the email should have never included hearsay but what the author of the email felt about the movie. No one actually knows who or what your friend looks like Lisa. They can't jump down her throat or did you fail reading comprehension. No reason to defend an email from people who don't know your friend.

  • Michael | February 22, 2013 3:31 PM

    LMAO Black people are sooo funny, I love how people are jumping down this person's throat when this is CLEARLY a reaction to that specific test screening ( which is CLEARLY stated in the post).

    "It seemed like a lot of Blacks (at least the ones that I was paying attention to) didn't like it." The person didn't say that Black people won't like this film. Of course you can't expect people to read.

    Or was I the only one that read that.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 3:24 PM

    Wow, thanks for jumping down someone's throat for writing quick thoughts. My friend just wrote what came to mind. I do think what the person wrote is something to think about, but you're more interested in tearing someone down because they didn't talk to every Black person in the country. Again you also must have failed reading comprehension. No where did my friend state that all Blacks didn't like it.

  • Maya | February 22, 2013 3:07 PM

    So, 12-15 Black people in ONE theater in ONE city is enough to warrant a blog post with a title that states that the average Black person won't like the film? Sorry but your group of 12 folks does not speak for the race. Someone else in another theater in another city, or hell, even YOUR city or YOUR theater, could say that they were with a group of 15 Black folks who all loved the film. Then what? Which group to believe? Which group should be used to speak for the race? Sorry, but no 12-15 Black people speak for me. And I'd like to believe that others feel the same way. Stop lumping the whole damn race together because one small group of folks feel one way about something. There could've been a group of Blacks in your theater who felt the opposite. What if one of them had sent the blog writer an email stating that the people he/she was with loved the film? Which one would the writer have posted, I wonder.

    And I have to voice my frustration with the writer of the S&A post. I think was irresponsible to post that email because now that email and the title of the post is going to set off a snowball effect of "black people don't like the movie". Which is complete crap and completely unfounded. But in the internet age, many people don't like to think for themselves. They will read the title, read the post, read the email and run with the whole "well, I heard, Black folks weren't feeling this." until soon enough, the consensus will be that 'we' don't like the movie. Who the hell is 'we'? All because one person sent an email to S&A talking about how the few people they were sitting next to didn't like the film. Ridiculous.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 2:39 PM

    I guess you missed this tidbit like eveyrone else seems to have "(at least the ones that I was paying attention to)". We were sitting around 12-15 Black people. there was also a discussion after the film we stayed for with majority Black people.

  • Camaro | February 22, 2013 2:10 PMReply

    I am happy that the film is good but less be clear. This film will have the same fate as Steve last two films. When it comes to Boxoffice and Oscars this film will have the same fate as Beloved and Amistad and not like Django. I don't see critics loving this films as much as Django. The reason why black people and everybody else for the matter ran out to see Django was because it gave us view of slavery that we never heard of. Even though the film was not true it was nice to see a slave get revenge on his master. 12 years a slave tells us what we already know. Slavery was awful. The film may be great but less face it. Does it have a nothing new to say that Roots, Amistad or The Middle Passage or even Beloved did not say. Django was great in its own fictional way and this I am pretty sure this movie will be two. Can we just be happy.

  • Agent K | February 24, 2013 10:09 PM

    @Camaro
    I don't think it's a matter of whether or not slave films have something new to say because Jewish holocaust films are made almost every year. What's new about the Holocaust? Maybe 12 Years a Slave might show the mental/psychological effects that slavery had on black slaves (and still have some effect on black people today) but I could be wrong. I agree that Django had it's own twist in dealing with slavery or what slavery was shown.

  • NO BRAINER | February 24, 2013 3:09 AM

    This is why Hollywood doesn't touch slavery films. They know black folks better than black folks know themselves. They know people like you crowd the community, people who think they know how bad slavery was and a film focused in that area is limited to a vague theme like "slavery was awful." Yes, slavery was awful, but so is a toothache. It the story is told with a through-line/theme with universal appeal, then such a film is obviously more than just awful. Imagine if the Jewish community felt the same way about the Holocaust and the films that focus on it. The Schindler's List screenplay would probably still be on the shelf.

  • CareyCarey | February 22, 2013 2:06 PMReply

    "Suggests Average Black Audience Won't Like It". Hmmmmm, the beat goes on... who is that audience?

    I pondered that exact question - 'who is that audience' - while reading the reader-submitted comments. Since I have no way to discern their age (or her age), background, purpose or motive for viewing this film or any film, I have to take their reactions with a grain of salt. I mean, do they represent me... or the average black audience? I have no idea.

    However, although some take umbrage at Sergio's more "liberal" comments, I listen to him as if he's E.F. Hutton. He may be old and grumpy, but he's very wise and very passionate about films/movies. Consequently, I am reminded of his past comment - in a podcast - that spoke to blacks not being "ready" for a true depiction of the horrors of slavery.

    On a related note, in the Soledad O'Brien post, he said "And since there are about 40 million black people in that country (America) there are about 40 million different experiences." Consequently, I am left to believe we have 40 million different viewpoints. So again, I have no idea who or what constitutes the "average black audience".

    Personally, from my perspective, I can find many rewards of viewing Tyler Perry's films, The Help and Django. So I look forward to seeing Steve McQueen's "Twelve Years". I don't know about anyone else, but the history of the director and the actors tells me it's going to be an enjoyable experience.

  • monkeysuit | February 22, 2013 2:05 PMReply

    I really hate this post. How can this person within the same sentence say "not all black people are alike," BUT then use the few black people in one screening as a projection of pan-Africa's reaction to this film?

    That's the type of shit I do not like. If you take the population of the world, filled with all its races, only a small percentage appreciate art house films. That's a fact. To expect the majority of black America to somehow overcome this pervasive prejudice just because slavery is at the center of the plot, is unfair.

    Now I LOVE Steve McQueen. I absolutely worship his work, but I do not expect my mother or my sister, who are not cinephiles to accept his films. That is not a flaw on their part. Their palettes just aren't trained for that, which is fine. So to say "black people don't want to see a serious film about slavery," to me is completely off-based. I'm pretty sure if this is a good film, the black people who do appreciate art house films and Mc Queens work will probably be fans. But those who don't are not ignorant or simple or whatever else this unknown commentator is trying to imply. This is reeking in pretention. The old talented tenth, I'm smarter than the rest of these negroes cause I can appreciate high art mess.

    It is possible to make an accessible movie about slavery that is politically sound that most of black America can appreciate. However, knowing McQueen's track record unconventional story telling, this ain't gonna be it.

  • monkeysuit | February 22, 2013 9:52 PM

    I love how all your rebuttals just challenge the commenter's reading abilities with no actual argument. I understand though, constructing an actual opinion is hard. Go play somewhere else.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 8:39 PM

    Monkeysuit you clearly don't understand the definition of IF. So I won't even bother.

  • monkeysuit | February 22, 2013 7:10 PM

    The commentator clearly said "if we are shaking our heads at a more serious film about slavery then I'm just dumbfounded. I guess what I'm trying to say is maybe We are part of the problem with diversity among Black films. I mean if Black people do not want to see a serious film about slavery then why would anyone else? Why don’t we just fill the theatres with Tyler Perry's films and films like The Help or Jumping the Broom? Is that fair? We have many different stories to be told and I don’t think we should be subjected to just 3 or 4 types of films."

    Meaning Black America, the majority of whom would already be turned off by an art house film [not because they're black, but because they're like the majority of other fucking humans] are somehow responsible for the lack of diverse black movies. Like those are the only options we deserve, Perry or McQueen: two opposite ends of the film spectrum. How about films like Crooklyn? Or Love Jones? Or Love and Basketball? Those are good, accessible films whole heartedly embraced by black America. Saying three black people at a screening "shaking their heads" at an art house film are contributing to the demise of black art is ri-di-cu-lous. And it's a GROSS generalization.

    I really hate this post, man.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 5:30 PM

    Troy, why are you getting up in arms over an example ? I used Tyler Perry as an example because he is popular today. Or would you want me to say counter programming for Black Rom-Coms? Or does everything need to spelled out for everyone? They have counter programming for action films and romantic comedies. I do not recieve free screeners of DVDs...sorry to disappoint you. Your assumptions are hilarious.

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 5:21 PM

    So who were the black art house supposed to be countering before Tyler Perry? He has only been somebody for the last decade. Why does any director need to counter another director? A minority of a minority saying that you are under-served. Everyone not only are minorities under-served or overserved one palatable entity but the minorities of that very same minority are under-served. I believe the average movie goer is into film that is why they spend the most money on films and DVDs not cinephiles who go to free screeners or receive free screeners on DVD. McQueen or Tyler Perry's catalog do not account for a full percent of the films I have watched by black filmmakers in my lifetime. We all have the luxury of finding gems that were created over the last 40 years.

  • Lisa | February 22, 2013 2:26 PM

    You know what happens when you assume or did you just fail basic reading comprehension?
    I went to the same screening with this person and NO where did the person say that an average movie goer was stupid or ignorant. An average movie goer is just someone who is not into film as opposed to someone who is. Yes majority of people are average movie goers. The problem is that the majority of the small amount of art house lovers or cinephiles are White and out number the Blacks who are. So we do not get the luxury of having many films like 12 Years to counter the other films like Tyler Perry etc.

  • Michael | February 22, 2013 2:10 PM

    I don't think you missed the point. From what I gather is that the poster wants different types of Black films not just 2 or 3.

  • Dee | February 22, 2013 1:53 PMReply

    To flog a dead horse just one... mo... time.

    Django Unchained was not the film Black People needed but the film we deserved.

  • Cary | February 22, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    Sadly with Django being very popular and a huge hit with just about everybody this film will half to live in its shawdow. I am pretty sure The Butler will be the black film of the year that Amps will love. Well atleast the film is good.

  • getthesenets | February 22, 2013 1:40 PMReply

    the email posted above seems bogus

    Was the writer(of the email) attending the screening or there to gauge the reaction of the audience?I've not attended a screening before but unless there is a discussion group afterwards, I'm wondering how the writer is able to figure out how the blacks in the audience reactedt to the film..unless he's referring to the group he attended the screening with.

    The email sounds like what a person who is doing research/polls/ focus group would say,AFTER interviewing people in the audience. What does a "regular movie fan" look like?
    What dos a film student look like? How about a "cinephile"?

    Average person attending a screening would be hard pressed to know the reactions or backgrounds of more than 6-8 people.

    Sounds bogus.

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 5:05 PM

    Maybe Michael wrote the email.

  • Channing Bate'em | February 22, 2013 2:00 PM

    You may be on to something. You think maybe Spike wrote the e-mail?

  • Michael | February 22, 2013 1:56 PM

    It got cut off...

    A cinephile is someone who is really into movies and has probably seen waay more than the average person. An average movie goer is someone what probably don't know who McQueen is or go to movie once a month. A film student would probably be talking about their film classes or talking about film such as lighting, scripts in a way someone else wouldn't. So it's really not hard to gauge what type of people attends screenings with you, unless you're antisocial and or dimwitted. People usually talk about the film on their way out the theater or afterwards where they have to discuss the film.

  • Michael | February 22, 2013 1:45 PM

    At most screenings, you have to stand in line for 2 or 3 hours with the people your seeing the film with. 9 times out of ten the same people attend the screenings so you see these people quite often. So you would get a chance to talk to them, unless you're antisocial. After the movie you have to sit and fill out forms of the film and

  • Tamu | February 22, 2013 1:28 PMReply

    Seems black folk really need to dive into a few books specifically those involving slave narratives. This idea or expectation that slavery is supposed to be fun and lighthearted is absurd. It was/is a brutal exposition of humanity. We've been so saturated with various versions that do not focus on real nastiness of slavery that many people have come to believe that it wasn't "that" bad. I can't wait to see the film. Judging from this brief write up, it seems to be the closest depiction since Roots.

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 5:02 PM

    Im with you on the realism but the Roots is the epitome of intellectual laziness. Alex Haley plagiarized.

  • urbanauteur | February 22, 2013 2:40 PM

    Exactly..!!! intellectual laziness or a fast food version of political enlightenment.

  • Kevin | February 22, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    I wonder will people love this as much as Django. I mean Django was a huge hit around the world and got a lot of Oscar nods. I hope this does the same. Lets see how much Spike Lee hates this.

  • NO BRAINER | February 24, 2013 2:57 AM

    So true, TROY.

  • Troy | February 22, 2013 4:59 PM

    So you clowns are still propping up QT at the expense of Spike. What did Spike do to you? It might make an interesting story.

  • Winston | February 22, 2013 1:58 PM

    Spike won't see this film either. There's an African playing the lead role of an American slave. We know how Spike feels about Africans. And he has hate in his blood.

  • cruz777 | February 22, 2013 1:08 PM

    why would he hate it?

    nevermind the fact that he didn't say he hated Django, just that he wasn't going to see a spaghetti western with slavery as a backdrop and QT's usual exploitation quirks

  • Dominique Marsell | February 22, 2013 1:07 PM

    If you're expecting Spike Lee to hate this film that's already existed as a play then you've missed the whole point of Spike criticizing Django. This film isn't wrapped in the cloak of a Spaghetti Western genre movie making it easier for audiences to swallow.

  • regi | February 22, 2013 12:39 PMReply

    while i respect mcqueen's work heretofore, i definitely do not "love" it. but i am looking forward to this for all the reasons the correspondent suggested: it aspires to a "realistic" depiction of slavery, ie. a brutal, unspeakable horror.
    btw, anybody who says DJANGO had "realistic" depictions of violence is waaaay off the mark. people are not bags of blood that explode when shot. at least not usually.

  • Curtis | February 22, 2013 12:24 PMReply

    Sadly this films comes out after the massive hit Django. Other then a few has been black filmmakers and a few on this site black people loved Django. When they see this movie they will need to remember that this is more Amistad not Django. I don't think this will have the Oscar and Boxoffice success and Django or The Help sadly. Happy to hear that the film is great.

  • msjjstone | February 22, 2013 12:23 PMReply

    I love Steve McQueen. I am so excited to see this film!

  • NO BRAINER | February 24, 2013 2:54 AM

    I have to agree with DJ.

  • DJ | February 22, 2013 1:21 PM

    Sorry, have to disagree with you there. Can't speak for his visual art career, which is clearly accomplished, but as a filmmaker, one of the more grossly overrated. But I blame the nexus of the pseudo-rarified circles of film fest critics and idolaters for this: pushing the narrative of the next new crossover artist. Shame, for e.g. -- a self-serving exercise masquerading as "profound formalistic, avant-garde treatment" of contemporary addiction. Nobody watched it; nobody cares. But when audiences are patronized in this way, oh well, you better blame the 'uneducated masses' who haven't sufficiently reflected on the psychological alienations of addiction.

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