I’ve written a 1500 word feature on the amazing “12 Years a Slave”, and the Hollywood white-washing on slavery that dominates the rest of the industry. I’ve been working on material regarding this subject for over a year now, hopefully it does such an important issue justice. You can see the whole article on the Norwich Film Festival blog by clicking the linked sample-text below.
There are few crimes in human history that are as sickening, depraved and loathsome as slavery. Countless millions lived, worked and died in bondage, generation after generation. Over 150 years after its abolition in the United States, its poisonous legacy can still be felt – even with a black President impotently pontificating from the Whitehouse, like so many white men before him. Why then, is a subject that has affected so many lives, so difficult for American film-makers to address adequately?
There is, it seems, something about the subject that simply doesn’t fit with the grand ideological narrative modern Hollywood is accustomed to. The contradiction in terms of the land of individual liberty being built on the bloodied, scarred backs of millions in bondage seems to flummox even the most well-heeled auteur. For decades US cinema has wrestled unsuccessfully with the issue, and has usually fallen back on two staple responses. The choice is traditionally between a complete air-brushing (best exemplified by the Western genre); or a mawkish faux-history that milks liberal guilt during award season – which I shall here name ‘The Spielberg technique’.