The red carpet rolled into the Reading Cinemas theater in beautiful downtown San Diego for the San Diego Film Festival, bringing along with it a slew of film fans, filmmakers, actors, producers, and screenwriters. Attendees lined up outside the theater, in anticipation to see a screening of a film that’s gaining quite a lot of Oscar buzz: 12 Years a Slave. The film stars Chiwetal Ejiofor, who plays Solomon Northup, a free black man that’s abducted, and turned into a slave. The true story was adapted from the memoirs of Solmon Northup by screenwriter John Ridley, who was in attendance for a Q&A, along with producers Dede Gardener and Jeremy Kleiner.
The film was intense and captivating to say the least, and the packed house gave it the love it deserved when the credits rolled with a roaring round of applause. The Q&A, hosted by veteran film critic Jeffrey Lyons, gave the audience more insight into the amazing film.
Shot in 35 days, for only about 16 million dollars, 12 Years a Slave was a truly a work of passion. Although it’s about the struggle of black slaves, t’s not just a film about African-American History, as Ridley describes:
“I honestly don’t necessarily look at it as being African-American history, it’s just our history, and to be able to tell stories like Red Tails or 12 Years a Slave is awesome.”
Ridley is dedicated to telling stories of importance, so that we may learn about ourselves, and our history. He believes that we need to know about slavery in a comprehensive manner.
“Where we are in this country in 2013 is because of things that we were taught generation after generation after generation. The only objective for me is that I have two young kids, and they need to know all of this.”
Ridley also relates the importance of this subject matter, and our history in general, to figuring out and questioning the trials that we face today.
“They [Ridley’s children] need to understand what it’s about, why we got here, how we as Americans have achieved amazing things, and why we should be upset when look at what’s going on in Washington right now, and why we can’t achieve the smallest things. We are a great people, but if we don’t understand our own greatness, how do we move on to what’s next?”
The script had many powerful moments, projected with gripping intensity by Director Steve McQueen. Ridley speaks about the decisions for allowing the actors to revel in the moment, as he explains that the key is “to allow every moment to have its own time and space. For me on the page you can feel where it needed to go.”
The dialogue used was very proper, as it reflected the times and the memoir of Solomon Northup. Ridley didn’t want to modernize the dialogue, as he wanted to preserve the authentic nature.
“In all honesty it [the style of dialogue] came from the book. Solomon, as you see in here, is a remarkable individual and I think it was very important on many levels, as Jeremy indicated with Steve, to stay honest with things, as opposed to changing it around or trying to contemporize it. That is the way people talked in general.”
12 Years a Slave kicked off the festival with a bang, and many people won’t be surprised to see the film on the ballots come Oscar night.
The night ended at one of downtown San Diego’s most popular clubs: Bang Bang. Attendees strolled in to the lavish, Asia-inspired atmosphere, and were given complimentary drinks and food. The 2013 San Diego Film Festival continues with many amazing films, including About Time and the German Doctor, and a tribute to writer/director/ producer Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Anchorman, Bridesmaids) at the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla. If you have a love for pure cinema, and need a break from cookie-cutter films, the San Diego Film Festival is an experience you’ll truly enjoy. Tickets and VIP passes are on sale now.
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