British Filmmakers Shift American 'Conversation On Race' : Code Switch : NPR: Following the premiere of the film 12 Years A Slave at the Toronto International Film Festival, reporter Johanna Schneller of The Globe and Mail asked British director Steve McQueen, "Can we talk about race in North America? Are we all too careful, are we all too fearful?" McQueen bristled in response: "I don't know what kind of conversation you're talking about."
12 Years A Slave is McQueen's upcoming portrait of American slavery that opens on Oct. 18. It follows the story of Solomon Northrup, a free black man from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Critics at Toronto immediately hailed the film as a landmark achievement — "necessary and essential," the Schindler's List of slavery films. The film is brutal, unflinching and unsentimental in its portrait of a theme that remains deeply charged for an American audience. But McQueen, who is black and has previously spoken out about Hollywood's deficit of black filmmakers, said his film is about more than America's history with race. "Of course it is about race, but at the same time it goes beyond the boundaries of that ... in a way that life always does. We always want to put ourselves into boxes or put sort of frames around things. But actually most of the time things break out of those frames," he said.