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The FIRST Solomon Northrup Movie (and an observation...)

by Sergio
August 16, 2011 11:05 AM
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We've sure have some very knowledge people who read Shadow And Act. When I saw that Tambay posted an item about the Steve McQueen/Chiwetel Ejiofor film project 12 Years A Slave, based on the autobiography by Solomon Northrup, a free black man in New York who was kidnapped and forced to work as a slave in the South, it immediately brought to mind Solomon Northrup's Oddessy.

But one of our devoted readers urbanauteur mentioned that in his comment before I could put in my two cents in; except he got one fact wrong which I'll get to in a minute.

Starring Avery Brooks, it was the last project directed by the great Gordon Parks who passed away in 2006. The film was made for PBS for its then American Playhouse series, and it's an excellent film, though it's seriously hampered by its obvious budget limitations and rushed production schedule. To my knowledge, the film was never even released on DVD and begs rediscovery.

Though what urbanauteur got wrong was the year it was made, which was in 1984, and not 1978 as he stated. I still remember seeing the film vividly because I saw it at an advance screening with Parks in person, and I had him autograph one his books for me; and shortly afterward, I received from a personal letter from him, expressing his appreciation to me. Both of which I still treasure highly.

And by the way, this also brings to mind my recent piece back in June about whether a serious film about American slavery could be made? (You can read it HERE)

I argued that one could not, simply because the psychological wounds are still too deep and too painful for African Americans. Which is why I find it interesting that it's a Black British director and actor who are teaming to make a serious film about American slavery. Hmmmmm. Am I reading something here????

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  • Rosie | January 3, 2012 6:16 PMReply

    The movie is available on DVD. This is how I managed to create the very screencap you are using for your article.

  • tolly devlin | August 17, 2011 6:50 AMReply

    The film is available on dvd ; it is in my netflix line up. I do not know if I saw it at the same screening as you Sergio but I do remember seeing it at one of the Blacklight film fests & enjoying it very much . I even taped it when it did show up on American Playhouse.

  • AccidentalVisitor | August 17, 2011 4:05 AMReply

    {{{ And by the way, this also brings to mind my recent piece back in June about whether a serious film about American slavery could be made?

    I argued that one could not, simply because the psychological wounds are still too deep and too painful for African Americans. }}}

    Disagree. A "serious" movie about slavery had obstacles mostly as a result of a white America that is more inclined to looking at the sins of others (Nazi Germany) rather than their own (slavery, Jim Crow, wiping out of Native Americans, etc.). Hollywood has never been interested in films that truly addressed slavery or the civil rights movement , and if anyone thinks it is because Hollywood was worried about the psychological wounds of black folk you give the folks running tinsel town more credit than they deserve.

    On the other side I don't know of too many black filmmakers who have actively pursued the idea about doing a film on these issues in the first place which may go to Sergio's point about the psychological wounds.

  • urbanauteur | August 17, 2011 2:58 AMReply

    To piggyback on AV's comment, i totally agree and to go 40 fathoms lower, i would say that maybe 1-2..self-contained-writer/directors(ie:exercizing TRUE AUTEUR TENACITY!!) & that'll proably be _Tim Reid(thatz right!- with his small virginia studio) & of course the incumberble but quasi-elitist -Spike Lee! if he can get OUT the Way of his Ego and go DIY-Doable as he meantion over the years about Holllywood might someday "stiff" him for funding, then now is the time, because, even though i hav`nt seen his upcoming-OZU derived urban Toyko Story(Red Hook Summer) then its incumbant upon US to bring more then the noise.

  • jaceton | August 17, 2011 2:36 AMReply

    It's still someone else telling our story.

  • BLKLDN | August 17, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    I don't understand is that the actor and director are of African parentage or is it because they were born in Britain that you have a problem with?

  • Neziah | August 17, 2011 1:09 AMReply

    All of Gordon Parks' lost films should be made available, same with Ossie Davis. I'm still waiting to see "Cool Red", but no such luck. Well, at least I was lucky enough to find a copy of Parks' "The Super Cops".

  • Mecca | August 16, 2011 12:59 PMReply

    Solomon Northrup is definitely a lost treasure that film should make it's way to DVD by now.

    Yeah, a Brit actor & director doing a period piece film about slavery alongside the most overrated white actor in Hollywood who is producing the project. ??

    I don't know what Steve McQueen has up his sleeves but hopefully, he can make it engaging and enjoyable to watch.

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