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John Ridley on depicting slavery in film

January 24th, 2014
02:10 PM ET

One of the year's most talked-about films revisits a dark chapter in American history.  '12 Years a Slave' tells the story of Solomon Northup – a man born free, but sold into slavery in 19th century America.  The film won big at the Golden Globes, and is nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director.

Becky spoke with John Ridley, the screenwriter behind '12 Years a Slave' – who himself is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.  Ridley said that although writing the script was challenging, he had strong original material to work with – in the form of Solomon Northup's memoir.

"Solomon's memoir is a truly special document.  The way he speaks, the eloquence, the depth of reportage, at a time when many Americans were not familiar with the institution of slavery," Ridley said. 

Becky asked Ridley about one of the main criticisms of the film – its depiction of brutal violence.  Ridley says that response from viewers tells him the filmmakers have done their job in making audiences aware. "We had no idea what the system of slavery is like, and for a lot of us our recollection of slavery is 'Gone with the Wind.'  It's 'Song of the South.'  It's 'Birth of a Nation.  And for people to genuinely – not in a dismissive way – say 'this is powerful stuff' – it really sort of tells me that we as people have not done a very good job at educating ourselves on what it takes to enslave people."

 


Filed under:  Becky's Interviews • Entertainment • History • Oscars • United States • Video
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