What About That OTHER '12 Years A Slave' Movie?

Television
by Sergio
January 13, 2013 8:29 PM
13 Comments
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With the eager anticipation for Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, based on the autobiographical novel by Solomon Northup, and even the upcoming reissue his book, 12 Years a Slave, which Courtney reported about HERE, I thought it would be a good idea to bring back a piece I wrote in the summer of 2011 for S & A, about the first film version of Northup's book.

I'm referring to the 1984 TV movie, Solomon Northup's Odyssey, starring Avery Brooks (Spencer for Hire, A Man Called Hawk, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) in the role of Northrup, the last film to be directed by the legendary film director/ photographer/composer and all around renaissance man, Gordon Parks, who passed away in 2006.

It was made for PBS for their 1980's film series American Playhouse, which were feature length film versions of important literary works. Another terrific film in the sries that has been forgotten, was their 1985 film version of James Baldwin's semi-autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, with Paul Winfield, Giancarlo Esposito, Rudy Dee, Alfre Woodward and Ving Rhames in his first film role.

As I said before about Odyssey, it's an excellent film, though it is somewhat hampered by its obvious budget limitations and rushed production schedule. The film was released on VHS, but to my knowledge, was never released on DVD and begs rediscovery. Though I wouldn't exactly be surprised if someone digs up an old print somewhere, and releases it on DVD, sometime this year, to capitalize on McQueen's film.

Odyssey is also somewhat rather special to me, because I saw the film many years ago at a public screening  with Parks in person, and I had him autograph one of his books for me; and shortly afterward, I received a personal letter from him, expressing his appreciation to me. Both of which I still treasure highly today.

But I also happen to have a signed autograph copy of the blu-ray DVD of Shame that McQueen signed for me so I'm covered.

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13 Comments

  • virgie | February 14, 2014 4:41 PMReply

    wI love 12 years of slave with avery brooks i rented it years ago it was on vhs i wish someone will bring it back

  • Siddiq | February 1, 2014 12:07 AMReply

    The movie has been on DVD for some time. I happen to have had 2 copies way before this movie was even thought of. One of the titles is Half Slave Half Free and the other is Solomon Northrup Odyssey. I read his autobiography some years ago. I'm upset that one of our own, the great Gordon Parks has been looked over for his extraordinary work.

  • BT | November 13, 2013 10:17 PMReply

    No one beleived me when I said this movie is not new. I watched it on AFN in Mannheim Germany in 1984. A great movie.

  • Sharon | October 24, 2013 5:03 PMReply

    I still have my VHS copy and remember watching it on PBS. I will always treasure this movie and others made for PBS. If you have not done so check out the PBS TV Movie Uncle Tom's Cabin. It may also be available on VHS.

  • Karen | October 19, 2013 1:38 AMReply

    Finally someone remembered, I thought I had gone crazy 'cause I couldn't find anything on this eighties' tv movie based on the same book as the new film by Steve McQueen. I saw it when I was a teenager and really moved me -well, it's been almost 30 years and here I am, talking about it!-. It raised my interested on the issue of slavery in South America, particularly in Argentina where I live. I drove my teachers crazy with questions they did not how to answer, so I found out for myself. But that's another (sad) story. Thanks for the post, well deserved in Park's memory, at least I think so.

  • Ernest Battle | January 21, 2014 1:55 PM

    I, too, am glad that others remember the PBS version..and yes, I still have my copy. Let me add, that as a former resident of Gary, IN, Avery, who I know personally, is another hometown hero who grew up in the 2400 block of Jackson St, one block from the Jackson family. That said, I'm still hoping that some member of the current cast, will at least acknowledge the early version during an acceptance speech.

  • Michelle | November 8, 2013 8:07 PM

    Solomon Northrup is on Youtube. I rented it on Netflix so it is available.

  • Rosie | July 30, 2013 1:03 AMReply

    I have a copy of the 1984 movie on DVD. It's a big favorite of mine.

  • getthesenets | January 14, 2013 1:06 PMReply

    OK..hearing that the planned protest didn't take place. Since the action figures haven't been pulled, it sounds as though there was a backroom deal-I don't twitter but someone sent me a link to N.Ali's twitter where he said that no protest was taking place
    any readers out in L.A.? can you confirm anything?-I'm guessing that contributors to S&A are afraid of being whiteballed and won't write about any of this, so I'm just asking the readers.
    -Next time S&A goes in on Tyler Perry or another Black artist, just remember how SILENT you all were about this topic.

  • urbanauteur | January 14, 2013 12:42 PMReply

    What a underappreciated classic! and also the novel.

  • Firebrand | January 14, 2013 5:21 AMReply

    Rented this from Netflix about two or three years ago while having my huge black cinema quest, so apparently it is on DVD, just not available to the general public for some odd reason. It was a pretty good print though and I greatly enjoyed the film. Would love to revisit it after McQueen's film to make comparisons. Parks is massively under-appreciated by nearly everyone for his contributions.

  • Maitefa Angaza | November 7, 2013 10:51 AM

    I remember "Solomon Northurp's Odyssey" and certainly agree about Parks. Every child (and adult for that matter) should know this self-taught genius. As for Roots, I was startled to hear that A&E is remaking the series. Processing that.

  • getthesenets | January 13, 2013 8:48 PMReply

    Wasn't "Roots:The Gift" about the same topic..also starring Avery Brooks?--------------

    Shame on S&A for no artcle or MENTION of the protest planned outside of Golden Globes to protest the licensed action figures for the film "Django"-----------------

    post about Shawty Lo being interviewed by MTV but no post of the protest....

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