Entertainment

Steve McQueen's brutal scenes divide festival audience

Three Brits are likely to be in the running for Oscars including Ejiofor for best actor and Fassbender for best supporting actor
Three Brits are likely to be in the running for Oscars including Ejiofor for best actor and Fassbender for best supporting actor

A HARROWING depiction of slaves being beaten, tortured and killed that forced some audience members to walk out of the Toronto Film Festival has been defended by a film's Oscar-tipped British star.

Chiwetel Ejiofor said the violent scenes in Steve McQueen's adaptation of Solomon Northup's memoir, 12 Years a Slave, were necessary in the bondage tale.

"Solomon's story is full of [violence] but also full of beauty and hope and human respect and dignity," he said. "With Steve there to guide it, we weren't afraid to explore all that, and go to those dark places."

The "dark places" included brutal scenes that saw some members of the audience leave yesterday's screening. There are several realistic scenes of brutal violence, with McQueen paying particular attention to the scarring of the victims.

Ejiofor, who plays Northup - a free musician living in Saratoga, New York, who is kidnapped by supposed circus owners in Washington DC and sold into slavery in the South - is seen in one early scene being beaten 15 times with a bat and then whipped 14 times by his kidnappers.

McQueen does not shy away from showing slaves being hanged and killed, and in one particularly harrowing 10-minute scene, a plantation owner Epps, played by Michael Fassbender, strings a slave to a post before ordering her beating. She is shown being whipped 41 times.

McQueen's previous film Shame depicted a sex addict, but this time it is likely to be the violence that will attract attention.

McQueen is particularly effective in showing the impossibility of escape for the slaves in the film based on Northup's 1853 memoir. Northup is given the slave name Platt and told by fellow slaves not to reveal that he can read or write, or say that he can prove he is a free man, as this would result in certain death. The potential for brutal violence is overwhelming. Many beatings occur off-camera, but when McQueen does show brutality on-screen little is left to the imagination. These scenes may test the British censors, although given the story that is being told, it is likely no cuts will be ordered.

There was a deserved 10-minute standing ovation for the film at the festival with many in the audience in tears. Critics are already comparing 12 Years a Slave to Schindler's List. And the film is being touted as the frontrunner for next year's Oscars with a Best Picture nomination seemingly guaranteed.

Three Brits are likely to be in the running for individual prizes. Steve McQueen for best director, Ejiofor for best actor, and Fassbender for best supporting actor. In the film, Ejiofor delivers a performance comparable to his multi-award winning turn as Othello at the Donmar theatre in 2007.

McQueen and his impressive cast - which also includes Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt and the Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o - took the stage after the credits rolled at its official world premiere to answer questions.

McQueen told the audience he wanted to adapt Northup's story as he felt the harsh realities of slavery had too rarely been depicted on the big screen. "I wanted to see that story on film," said the London-born filmmaker. "It's that simple."

Pitt, who also served as producer, said: "Steve was the first to ask why there have not been more films on the US history of slavery. It's a question it took a Brit to ask."
 




Join the Community.

Get your local news, your way.

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Man, 39, accused of raping 11-year-old niece

FILE SHOT: Bundaberg court house Photo: Zach Hogg / NewsMail

Trial begins in Bundaberg District Court

BUNDY X FACTOR: Our budding stars

AUDITION: Daniel Sheppard and Jasmine Ewart were in the queue to perform for the X-Factor judges. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail

Are you auditioning at the X Factor today?

BUDGET 2016: Small business tax cuts cost us $9 billion

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks at the despatch box during the delivery of the 2016-17 Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra,

It will cost the federal government $5.3 billion in lost revenue

Latest deals and offers

X Factor auditions Bundaberg

Trevor Stewart, 67, yodeling for the X Factor audtions.

X Factor auditions Bundaberg

Keaton McNeill, 21, from Hervey Bay singing 3am by Matchbox Twenty.

X Factor auditions Bundaberg

Bella Matebau, 16, singing Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande.

Demand for acreage lots pushes up property prices

Property values in Cooroy have increased 25%

Property values jump in Cooroy and Peachester.

How a sacked real estate agent made $725k in four months

Agent is now under investigation by the industry watchdog

RBA warns of future apartment oversupply

Toowoomba: Crest Apartments and Burke & Wills, Ruthven Street ( view from Neil Street) Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

RBA says oversupply of apartments poses risk to household finances