|12 Years a Slave movie still by Franҫcois Duhamel.|
Interview by Graham Fuller
Was anger a personal motivation for your making the film?
What motivated me more than anything was a sense of love, strange though that sounds. It’s a word that doesn’t get used often in this context. It was a sense of wanting to embrace the sin of slavery and make myself comfortable with it – and not just myself, of course. It’s like fire. It’s dangerous, but I wanted to embrace it.
Why love and not rage?
To tame it, to master it. It sounds odd, but it’s the truth.
In you filmed artworks, such as Bear (1993), Just Above My Head (1996), and Exodus (1997), there’s an enigmatic quality about your presentation of black men – their status, their interrelatedness, their effect on the spectator. With 12 Years a Slave, were you conscious of wanting to make a more explicit statement about the subjugation of blacks?
No. It is a fact, so I didn’t have to do anything. My job was to visualize a historical moment that for me hadn’t been visualized, that hadn’t been reconciled with. When people talk about slavery, they don’t change anything. When you visualize something, it does something extra to it. That for me was the sole purpose of making the movie.
12 Years a Slave in theaters October 18th.
To read complete interview pick up a copy of the September-October issue of Film Comment on newsstands now on order online here.