Alex Haley’s epic television miniseries is one of the many television epics I always meant to watch over the years, but never had the chance to. Finally being given the proper window by Warner, I was not surprised that “Roots” ended up being a very good epic drama about slavery, and the struggle for freedom. “Roots” is one of those great cinematic success stories, where in 1977, network ABC in America didn’t expect the mini-series to do very well. Due to its predominantly African American cast, and very strong content, the network pretty much dumped every episode over the course of eight nights, rather than spacing it out to create an audience.
Director Steve McQueen’s adaptation of the chronicle of Solomon Northup’s kidnapping and forcing into slavery for over a decade is extraordinary. It’s absolutely excellent from the opening shot of a group of slaves, Solomon in the middle, right down to the tear soaked finale. “12 Years a Slave” ends up becoming an education for all audiences, and a form of unjust punishment for Northup who was just beginning to soak up his freedom, and found himself imprisoned back in to a personal hell of slavery, torture, and humiliation. I’ve been a fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s work since “Melinda and Melinda,” and in “12 Years a Slave” is performance is absolutely astounding.