It’s the context, he says. Michael White is a student of early nineteenth century Americ and wonders Was 12 Years a Slave the best film of the year?
“It is not just the lovely clothes the Northups wear, but a lack of contextual information that might guide the unwary about how slavery operated in the America of 1841: the battle between slave and free states; freedom roads heading north; kidnappers like Northup’s assailants heading south with “runaways”, real or not. Steven Spielberg’s earnest Lincoln, with which it has been compared, makes the same mistake: lack of context meant you needed a degree in the period (I have one) to understand all that was going on.”… “we learn, McQueen and his writer, John Ridley, felt the need to embellish the text to reinforce their point.” … “You do not throw $1,000-worth of property at 1841 prices over the side of the boat simply because he has annoyed you.” … “The film’s depiction of relationships between classes, genders and spouses, as well as between races, also seemed a little out of kilter, too informal, too candid, too egalitarian; in other words, too modern.” … “what convinced me that the film diminished itself needlessly was in its depiction of Christianity simply as a hypocritical instrument of suppression, the Bible routinely cited as justification for enslavement in sermons to the enslaved. It was all that, but it was also much more.”
The modern propaganda recipe is all there. That is why “best film of the year? That smacks of piety in Tinseltown.”