This year’s Academy Awards made its mark in history, as the first film directed by a black director took home the high accolade of Best Motion Picture. 12 Years a Slave, directed by Mr. Steve McQueen, a Black British film director who managed the riveting performance of the Solomon Northup story. Steve McQueen, in an authentic expression of sincerity, dedicated the award to the nearly 21 million people still enslaved in the world. Truly an awesome individual.
But his win wasn’t the only one that left me taking in the full moment of this time in history. Ms. Lupita Nyong’o took home the award for supporting actress in her stellar breakout performance as Patsey in the film. Can you believe that? Her first time on the screen and she wins an Oscar. Her character, Patsey, captured the spirit of the black female experience in slavery and her win brought every attendee to his or her feet. She was so gracious in her acceptance speech and her win meant one for the silent voices of women who endure such hardships in a society that sexualizes, exploits and possesses the female body. In the film she took on the weight of such a timely topic in a way that resonates with struggles of women of all walks of life, across generations.
As Steve McQueen uses his gift to illuminate sociocultural, political and economic histories, my hope is that future productions receive the same level of leeway and political capital to uncompromisingly tell difficult stories. The magic that made 12 Years a Slave was that it was thoughtful and deliberate in its production and story line. It is one of the only films to make a book come alive, in my opinion.