The 1st of February marks Freedom Day in the United States. The choice of date is not coincidental; the 1st of February 1865 saw the U.S. president Abraham Lincoln signing a resolution proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution to outlaw slavery. More than 150 years later, we have a long list of films relating to slavery, with some saying that the last few years have seen an oversaturation of slavery films. Ultimately, however, slavery films are a sharp reminder of the pain of the long struggle for freedom; an ongoing struggle that has never really ended. Here are 5 must-see films on slavery and its impact on the American nation:

12 Years a Slave (2013)

The poignant story of Solomon Northup is based on the description of events of a musician and family man who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years. What lends a unique take to this film is the fact that the slave was a man born in freedom, which made his struggle even harder. The fact that it is based on true events allows the story to unfold with confidence and insight; in fact, it won the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in 2012, making it the first film directed by African-American film-maker (Steve McQueen) and written by an African-American writer (John Ridley) to win in this category. When accepting the Academy award, director Steve McQueen dedicated it to ‘all the people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today’.

Beloved (1998)

Released in 1998, Beloved was a flop at the box-office, coming nowhere close to surpassing its $80 million budget. This, however, does not deny the fact that it’s a powerful film which portrays the intense emotions and memories of a shattered woman haunted by traumatising memories. Based on Toni Morrison’s highly acclaimed 1987 novel, it maps out the psychological effects on a freed slave woman’s decision to kill her baby daughter; a decision made to safeguard her daughter from a life of slavery.

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

Released in cinemas in October 2016, this American period drama is set in 1831, centering around the life of Nat Turner, a slave and a preacher. Turner’s owner uses Turner’s preaching skills to subdue unruly slaves. However, as the story develops and Turner sees the intense suffering of his fellow slaves, he leads a slave rebellion in the hope of achieving freedom for himself and his people.

Lincoln (2012)

The Steven Spielberg drama maps out the final months in office of the 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. In a nation divided by war, Lincoln strives to garner votes to amend the constitution; an amendment that would forever abolish slavery from the United States. Lincoln’s difficult choices during this critical moment would forever change the fate of the future U.S. population.

Django Unchained (2012)

Released in 2012, Django Unchained was a highly acclaimed film which won several awards. Directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington, the Western-style film centres around a former slave going by the name of Django partnering up with a German bounty hunter to hunt down and kill outlaws. Eventually, he makes his way to a Mississippi plantation to rescue his wife from her owner. With shootings and murders at every turn, the action-packed Django Unchained will definitely keep you glued to your seats, but it also serves to provide an insight into the brutality of slavery.

 © 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Amy Webb