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12 years a slave is a metemorphosis


These people live again in print as intensely as when their images were captured on old dry plates of sixty years ago… I am walking in their alleys, standing in their rooms and sheds and workshops, looking in and out of their windows. Any they in turn seem to be aware of me. Ansel Adams

i saw the film “12 years a slave” yesterday and was (and am still) completely gob smacked at its intense beauty and the ferocious and insipidly ignorant evil that weaves through it like a poison gas. the images of beatings, ownership, and poverty still haunt me like a thousand bites of bayou mosquitoes.

when ii was in my late teens, ii read “metamorphosis” by franz kafka which had a similar effect on my heart as well. as ii watched the lead character solomon northup rolling on the floor of the dark dank cellar trying to maneuver with his newly acquired leg irons, ii was reminded of gregor samsa on his bed the morning he woke in the body of a cockroach. he attempted to roll to and fro on his bed just as our hero did.


this similarity caused me to ponder the arc of these characters and perhaps the universal quality that both these stories portray. in no way do ii mean to make light of mr. northup’s situation or journey. quite the contrary actually- it was nothing less than heroic. ii remain awestruck at his ability to remain peaceful amidst such violence and strife. it is a serenity ii may only strive for.

but there is a universality to these written journeys of transformation. life does have a way of landing a house on top of us without our permission or knowing and often we find ourselves thrown into situations that we had no awareness or agreement with. yet it is our path to either survive or surrender. and often- as with our northup character he did both which in buddhist lore is how we find our answers.

there may not be a bigger than life character offered up in film this year. solomon northup’s heart and courage exceed any ii have seen to date. it is not a loud and bombastic cinematic offering with special effects and layered soundtrack. it is at once a small quiet story that screams for retribution and justice to the inner workings of our souls.

this film should be seen by the entirety of our nation and placed in the classrooms followed by discussions. there is human nature represented here that would benefit us all if it were aired out to dry and put on display.

make it an imperative to see this film.

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