12 Years a Slave: A movie I invite everyone to watch; A journey of overcoming, hope, and optimism, and to freedom.
by Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD
Today, I watched the movie “12 Years a Slave: The Extraordinary True Story of Solomon Northup”. I can’t find words to describe the experience of watching the movie, directed by Steve McQueen, which is based on the true story from the 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave by Salomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. It is the first time that I watch a movie and hear so many moviegoers cry and sob. When the movie ended, I realized how many people in the theater had shed tears and were wiping their eyes. Women, men, young adults – it is rated R – Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians; almost everybody appeared to have been crying or moved to tears. It is a movie that is very hard to forget: a movie I invite everyone to watch.
I believe that each and everyone of us has a purpose in life. On a given day, some of us may be going about our own business, and, suddenly, events happen that throw us on a path that we had never thought we could take. Those moments play havoc with one’s life. People, whose lives are shattered by such abrupt life changing events, find themselves in a situation where they may question their own existence and their purpose on Earth. They may even doubt the existence of God.
As I watched the movie, a question keeps running through my mind: What do you do when you find yourself, without warning, thrown into tragedy, such as slavery, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, genocide, and human tragedies? Some people may try foolish acts, others despair and lose hope, others try to survive at any cost, including selling their soul, other resign themselves to fate, yet others never lose hope. Those whose lives are not impacted may hardly understand and tend to judge, condemn, or turn a blind eye.
The movie is inspiring from many aspects and, by the end, it had answered the central question I kept asking myself. The movie reminded me that one must not lose hope, and owes himself or herself, and the loved ones, the duty to keep trying. By keeping hope alive and trying, one may defy the gravity from those who have given up hope, those discouraging all efforts, the naysayers or the cunning traitors, or from the omnipresent lurking dangers. To free oneself from the shackles of tragedies, one should not become bitter and should never give up.
How does one get the energy to go on? By not forgetting the origins, the loved ones and others who stayed behind and who, also, always hope that one day, the seemingly impossible will become possible. By keeping hope, the desire for freedom that never dies in one’s heart and mind, would also, one day, become a physical reality.
“Twelve Years a Slave” takes one on a journey; a journey of overcoming, hope, optimism, and conquering fear and winning freedom. It is an unforgettable movie. A movie I invite everyone to watch.
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