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12 Years a Slave

Film responseFor each Film Response, answer ONE question about ONE film in the “Films and Questions” folder.

1) Each Film Response must be a minimum of 600 words. You may go over that minimum, but no Response even one word under the minimum will be accepted. Please include the word count in your heading (see #3).

2) I’m grading entirely on content, not mechanics (grammar, spelling, etc.); but a Response will lose points if it contains sentences that are unclear due to errors. And please do remember to italicize film titles.

3) At the top of the first page, put your name, HUM 2250, the date, and where/when you viewed the film (name of theater or streaming service or rental/owned DVD, and date), the date you are submitting the response, and the word count.

4) In the film folders you will find a brief introduction and question or questions. For each of the two Film Responses, choose one film and answer ONE question about it. Note that some questions have more than one part. ALL of the Response MUST address the question. NO CREDIT whatsoever will be given for a plot recap or general statements about the film or the topic. I’ve seen all these films and know what happens in them, so do not waste any word count explaining the plot. ALWAYS refer to specific scenes and incidents in the film to support your answer to the questions.

5) Even if you’ve already seen the film you’re writing on, you should watch it again specifically to formulate a good answer to the question about it.

6) Submit the Responses via the links on this page before the due date. These essays will be evaluated by SafeAssign and there should be no highlighted content in the SafeAssign report except for generic phrases, names (films, actors, etc.), and short quotes from the film. Do not put in long quotes; they will not be counted as part of the required word count.

7) I will assign each Response a point value up to 50, based on how well you addressed the question for the film, including specific references to scenes that support your view.

12 Years a Slave

The role played by slavery in the formation of our country is undergoing new examination by historians, including Edward Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, who considers this film the most accurate cinematic representation of slavery.

First-person narratives of slavery, like the one by Solomon Northup on which this film is based, have power to counteract theories and ideologies that strove to justify economic gain at the expense of human lives. The film aptly demonstrates some of the forces in favor of slavery, and the arguments against them.

The message is important, but so is the medium. Our course is focused on artistic reactions to historic events, and this film has won high praise for its artistic merit, including Academy Awards for Best Picture of the year, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Screenplay adaptation.

Fair warning: I’ve included this film despite a high level of disturbing violence because I believe the truths it portrays are an essential part of understanding our history and our present-day culture. If you think you may find it too upsetting, I suggest discussing it with a trusted friend who’s seen it, to help you decide whether you wish to watch it.
Questions: (Choose one)

A) Slavery in America was quite different from slavery in other parts of the world, including Africa. One reason that scholars point to is the strong presence of Christianity in the early United States. Although some Christians were abolitionists, others were pro-slavery, a stance that could only be maintained by a practicing Christian if the status of African enslaved people was reduced to non-human chattel unworthy of the divine love and basic equality due all human beings. How is this point of view demonstrated in the film? How does the film present an argument against dehumanization? Refer to specific scenes to support your argument.
B) (This is a two-part question) First: who, in your opinion, turned in the strongest performance in this film in terms of creating a convincing and character who evokes strong emotion? (Note: this doesn’t have to be a good character; someone has to play the bad guy.) Refer to specific scenes to support your choice.

Second: This film is undeniably violent and graphic. In your opinion, was this necessary to tell the story honestly, or would it have been better to downplay or suggest the violence? Refer to specific scenes to support your view.

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