Leonard Pierce Reviews 12 Years A Slave

Slavery, it has been properly observed, is America’s original sin.  It is our first and foremost crime, the most adjacent cause of our civil war, and the source of the racial poison that continues to choke us today.  It is, if this can be said in a way that does not invite outrage and hyperbole, our Holocaust:  a mobile disaster that wreaks its havoc and taints the very souls of those it touched even now, a hundred and fifty years after it officially came to an end.   But in that comparison lies one of the most thorny problems with assessing 12 Years a Slave, both as an aesthetic object and as an attempt to portray the degrading reality of slavery.  In both form and function, it highly resembles what we have come to think of as “Holocaust movies” — which, for dismaying reasons, has come to mean not just a movie about the Holocaust, but a very specifically formulaic kind of movie that is, because of the very sanctity of its subject, guaranteed critic chow and Oscar bait.

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