Welcome to H-Afro-Am, a member of H-Net Humanities & Social Sciences OnLine. The main mission of H-Afro-Am is to provide an exchange of information for professionals, faculty and advanced students, in the field of African-American Studies.
I have linked this network’s thread about 12 Years A Slave to comments appearing on other H-Net networks. Click here to see a dynamic listing of these items; the listing is updated whenever a new item is published that is tagged with the film’s title. You can bookmark the page, save it in your MyHNet space, or just return here on occasion and click its link in the menu on the right side of the network’s front page.
I agree that the narrative 12 Years a Slave is troubling. However, those aspects are part of the original text. It seems that "Hollywood" could have done one of two things: reproduce the text, with many of its problems intact, including viewing this through Solomon's eyes (which is what happened); or gone beyond the text to do more research or, worse, create something not real to what we know of Solomon's life. I shudder at the latter; would hope for the more research, but that rarely happens.
As an opening reply, you raise the classical struggle concerning history on film: must the film adhere to the sources and evidence closely, or must it be "good theatre" as it were. Full Disclosure: the film has just come out here (South Africa), and I have yet to see it. Yet given that the Solomon narrative has been given a bit of the Hollywood treatment, there are certain conventions that would lead the account toward a particular direction, especially the need to emotionally tie things up, as Dr Fraser implies. I am sure there are many other issues, and I will be quiet for now until I see the film, but this tension between the conventions of cinema and historical accuracy will be an important matter to discuss. -- NR