The “12 Years a Slave” Interview with Kam Williams
Oscar-Nominated Director Discusses Filmmaking and More Artist and filmmaker Steven Rodney McQueen was born in London on October 9, 1969. His critically-acclaimed directorial debut, Hunger, won the Camera d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. He followed that up with the incendiary offering Shame, a well-received, thought-provoking drama about addiction and secrecy in the modern world. In 1996, McQueen was the recipient of an ICA Futures Award. A couple of years later, he won a DAAD artist’s scholarship to Berlin. Besides exhibiting at the ICA and at the Kunsthalle in Zürich, he also won the coveted Turner Prize. He has exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Documenta, and at the 53rd Venice Biennale as a representative of Great Britain. His artwork can be found in museum collections around the world like the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. In 2003, he was appointed Official War Artist for the Iraq War by the Imperial War Museum and he subsequently produced the poignant and controversial project Queen and Country commemorating the deaths of British soldiers who perished in the
conflict by presenting their portraits as a sheet of stamps. Steve and his wife, cultural critic Bianca Stigter, live and work in Amsterdam which is where they are raising their son, Dexter, and daughter, Alex. Here, he talks about his latest film, 12 Years a Slave, which has been nominated for 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Kam Williams: Hi Steve. Thanks for honoring me with the opportunity to interview you. Steve McQueen: Thanks so much for the interest, Kam. KW: I’ve loved all three of your feature films, this new one, and Hunger and Shame as well. They are so different from each other and yet quite remarkable and memorable, each in their own way.SM: Thank you. Well, I do my best. I’m just happy that people are responding to the films as positively as they are. To be honest with you, it’s one of those things where we’re just happy to get them made. When you get to make something, you always hope people will go and see it. And we’re very, very pleased by the response to 12 Years a Slave. It’s kind of humbling and remarkable. KW: Your work reminds me of Ang Lee’s in terms of its quality and versatility in the way that his movies are each phenomenal yet so very different from each other.SM: Wow! That’s a huge compliment. What can I say? He’s a master. Ang Lee is a person I really admire and look up to. I love so many of his films, especially Ride with the Devil, Sense and Sensibility, and The Ice Storm.KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What does it mean to you to be in charge of adapting Solomon Northup’s memoir? How do you explain that his autobiography was buried for around a hundred years contrary to those of some of his contemporaries like Frederick Douglass? SM: I feel tremendously honored but I also feel a tremendous responsibility because through this film we can bring Solomon Northrup’s memory to the surface. His story was buried for so long. When the book first came out in 1853, it was a phenomenal best seller for its time, and sold 27,000 copies in 18 months. But what happened was Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published the following year, and that was it for 12 Years a Slave. It fell into obscurity. Academics knew about the memoir but it otherwise became lost. To me, it was always like the American equivalent of The Diary of Anne Frank. That’s why it became my passion to get this film made.KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: In a film described as a historical drama, how do you establish a healthy balance between history and drama? SM: By relying on the book. As a filmmaker I was interested in illustrating the history of what slavery was about, which was slave labor. In the background of one frame, for example, you see sugar cane. In the second plantation, you see logging. And on the third location, we see corn. So, at the same time you’re following Solomon’s adventure of trying to get home, in the background you simultaneously see the horrors and pains of what slavery was about. KW: Fellow director Rel Dowdell asks: Do you feel that the great success of Django Unchained improves your very visceral film’s chances for a warm reception? SM: I think that film was very helpful, of course, in making people aware by getting the subject-matter on film. So, I couldn’t say it didn’t help. KW: What interested you as a Brit in an African-American story? SM: The story’s not just an African-American story. It’s a universal story. It’s a world story. My parents are from the West Indies. My father’s from Grenada which is where Malcolm X’s mother was born. My mother was born in Trinidad which is where Stokely Carmichael, the man who coined the phrase “Black Power!” was born. Sidney Poitier was born in the Bahamas. I’m part of that diaspora of people displaced by the slave trades.I’m part of that family. It’s our story. It’s a global story. KW: My grandparents were born St. Croix, St. Kitts and Barbados. Do you eat any West Indian food like curried goat, callaloo or roti? SM: Yeah, all of that. And then, when you go to New Orleans, you find similar dishes. We’re all family! KW: How did you settle on Chiwetel as Solomon Northrup? SM: Chiwetel was always the one I wanted to make the movie with because there’s a certain humanity and gentility about him that I needed for the lead role. Solomon was a person who maintained his humanity whatever his circumstances, and I needed someone of that same caliber, because he would be tested to the breaking point. I needed an actor who could hold up during those moments of extreme stress. KW: Why did you use the great Michael Fassbender in each of your films? SM: I think Michael is the most influential actor of his generation. He’s like a Mickey Rourke or a Gary Oldman. People want to be him. Actors want to act with him. Students choose to pursue acting because of him. I was very fortunate to land him for Hunger. We’ve been close friends ever since. He’s an amazing actor I willl always want to work with. KW: How did you assemble such a top-flight cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhane Wallis, Paaul Dano, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.SM: I had huge help from the casting director, Francine Maisler. She did an incredible job. We auditioned over a thousand girls for the role of Patsey. And we ended up with Lupita who hadn’t even graduated from acting school yet. But she auditioned for us, and that was it. A star was born! KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read? SM: The last one I actually read was a children’s book I read to my son last night called something like “Teacher Goes to School.” KW: What is your favorite dish to cook? SM: Pasta, because it’s easy. KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see? SM: I see all the lines in my face from tiredness. KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory? SM: Borrowing roller skates from a next-door neighbor when I was about 3 or 4 years-old.KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision? SM: Meeting my wife. KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for? SM: World peace. It might sound corny, but that’s the truth. KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours left to live, how would you spend the time? SM: With the people I love. KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you could be another animal, which one would you choose? SM: A dolphin. KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person? SM: I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you’ll fall by the wayside. KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there something that you promised to do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet? SM: Am I famous? KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered? SM: As a person who tried. KW: Thanks again for the time, Steve, and best of luck with the film. SM: Thank you. Take care, Kam.
To see a trailer for 12 Years a Slave, visit:
TAKE THE ONE GALLON WATER CHALLENGE
Need an easy, inexpensive and dare I say FUN way to drink more water?
Challenge yourself to drink one gallon of water DAILY!
Maybe you’ve seen “The Water Challenge” floating around on social media.
Some people do it for 30 days, others commit to only a week. One day at a
time might be challenge enough for you.
Whatever you decide, commit to your daily gallon. Yes, it may seem like a
lot of water to consume, but there are a lot of benefits, too.
Drinking more water:
• Helps your body absorb essential minerals and vitamins
• Releases toxins from the body
• Maintains healthy hair, skin and organs
• Flushes your system
• Regulates body temperature
Tips for Success
• Carry your gallon jug with you EVERYWHERE!
• Get other people to do the challenge with you for accountability.
• Set a drinking schedule and mark the times on your bottle.
Keep in mind, too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad. Be kind to your kidneys and
sip your water throughout the day instead of guzzling in one sitting to avoid hyponatremia,
also sometimes called water intoxication.
For more weight loss information, visit Energetics.
Communicating YOUR Youthfulness!
“You Are What You Think You Are!”
It is almost guaranteed that a high percentage of AABoomers’ readership in recent and/or past years, have said to themselves the above statement in one configuration or another. Baby Boomers have become “enlightened” in part to “seeing themselves” through the “shouldn’t have done that(s)”, the “I- wanna do-overs”, and the “moving on” blues! It is the old saying “hind-sight is foresight”! OK...enough with the clichés! What does the way you are thinking and speaking have to do with thinking and being young? The basic and yes, biblical answer is again simply - you are what you think you are! Self-change comes from confronting the you, YOU think you are long enough and deep enough to reap the benefits of personal transformation. The truth is our lives are the result of a whole lot of thoughts (yours and others), and words which became your actions - then YOUR REALITY! There are few willing to BE in continual growth with enough humility to gain personal insight into WHY certain life challenges come and HOW they are designed to produce the best person inside of them. The involved-participant intentionally does this [in part] by being open to hearing the truth about themselves AND by engaging in the moment-to-moment exercise of self-monitoring, self-reflecting and self-adjusting (ASC, perkins) their OWN THOUGHTS and the resultant WORDS! Adding the final ingredient of human motivation (actions) and we have something called OUR LIFE! Are you in charge of your life or “them”? Are you an extra in
WHOSE THOUGHTS ARE YOU THIINKING?
So, you may be asking, “what has this to do with my communication rather less my age?”EVERYTHING!
Since “As a man/woman thinketh, so is he/she,” (Proverbs) we need to be more responsible for the WORDS COMING OUT OF OUR MOUTHS! This is especially true in a post-baby boomers society where every day there is a new word birthed by social media, technology, reality TV, and political/social discourse added to the lexicon! Yes, things are changing at the speed of light! Well guess who is in control, Generation Y - the millennials! They are the ones creating the present day discourse of who’s in
- who’s out, who’s cool - who’s not! What have you learned from your great-grans? What have they learned from you? Are you still one of the foot-dragging few who refuse to allow the new reality of technology and social media to slip into your stable, comfortable, use-to-it life? Well, welcome to the club so am I along with millions of other resistant Baby Boomers, “kicking and screaming” all the way to the unemployment lines!
Yes, that is right! I said it! Ageism has hit us HARD! This is one of the vital reasons for staying connected
to youthful communication and how generation x, y and soon to be z folks, are navigating the new 21st century frontier. Not to mention the important “rites of passage” our children should be going through learning and respecting their heroic past! I grew up respecting and admiring the “hoary” head of wisdom around me. Now that does not mean I did not “talk back” or be as my Mother chided “sassy”, but those incidents of personal consternation did not prevent me from listening and gleaning the best advice I have humanly received, and over the years all I can say is THANK GOD! The current problem is that many of the present-day young folks just ain’t listening! Well, I take that back – their listening to their smart phones, Facebook, reality TV talk shows, and tweets, et.al. They are engaged with multiple hundreds of people at once! This technology has entered the workplace along with the latest-greatest apps and software programs, while the Baby Boomers and elders sit comfortably on their couches, shaking their heads wondering what happened. When I call my friends, many of which are well over 75 living active and productive lives, I still cannot get off the phone without obituary updates, concerns with healthcare changes/prices, and the latest Price is Right winner. That is all and well, and I thoroughly enjoy my conversations, but not necessarily my great nieces and nephews. Only a distance of 20 years between me and a few of them, and they talk about reality TV shows as if they are in them and know the folks personally, as well as all the office and street gossip you can imagine - ALL THE WHILE multi-tasking on their smart phones. Personally, I am thinking about turning in my smart phone in for a “dumber” model; this thing is too smart for me at inopportune moments. Oh wait, scratch that, I need it for my job!Are your thoughts and words aging you before your time? I am not saying that we need to keep up with the latest street slang or anything other than being who we are authentically. What I am saying is DO NOT STOP KNOWING AND GROWING! Reach out to youth. Check out what engages them. Gather talking points about those things you would like to know and share with them. Take care of your body, mind,and soul asking, seeking, and knocking to stay healthy physically and mentally! Let us not “throw the babies out with the bath water”! Our parents did not! I love hanging out with my Mom because she has stayed connected, as much as she desires, to what engages me. We text each other EVERY MORNING! She looks forward to it and chides me if I get too far into my day without that connection. Lord knows I need her daily prayers and love! So do the youth in your life. Ask yourself a question, “Can we really afford to no longer engage the youth around us who will one day be responsible for our health and welfare?” We already know the answer to that question, so go ahead, and get that Facebook page or tweeter account. Believe that you can and you will! AABOOMERS is here
to connect you to them! Pass it onto your children’s children! They are waiting for us! Well, maybe not, but I am going anyway! I have a lot of me left to give and receive, how about you?
The Curse Of Willie Lynch
By John Wills
February 22, 2014
Some have proclaimed that a slave was born. I disagree with this notion because a slave was made by means of a defined calculated and well thought-out plan devised for the purpose of being a beast of burden. We know the reasons for this atrocity which was to build a nation and to obtain wealth for the culprits. But what is not understood, en mass, is how it was designed to be sustainable. That part has become little more than a footnote to history.
I’m reminded of the powerful words of Harriet Tubman, who expressed succinctly the effectiveness of this system of mental conditioning. She was asked shortly before her death, if she knew how many slaves she freed while conducting the Underground Railroad. She did not think about it, replying quickly, “I could have freed a lot more, if they had only known they were slaves.”
From that day in dreadful in 1619 when the first Africans were dragged onto the shores of Jamestown until today where we’ve witnessed the first man of color elected President of these United States (or as Jesse would put it – from the outhouse to the White House), there is no doubt that our story is the greatest story ever told. As it is said in scripture, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” But let’s understand that there was a plan, a sinister plan, conceived at some point to ensure that people of African descent remain the least of thee.
Read More: http://thoughtprovokingperspectives.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/the-curse-
The Willie Lynch Letter in its entirety:http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/
Although there is some question about the authenticity of the Willie Lynch Letter, there is no doubt about the effects of slavery on our community. We are interested in hearing your responses to the letter and the ramifications of slavery. Please share your comments with us.
BLACK WALL STREET
By: San Francisco Bay View
Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.
The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.
Black America’s most prosperous community, Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went up in flames June 1, 1921, in the KKK-led Tulsa Race Riot. According to Wikipedia, “During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, an estimated 10,000 were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire caused by bombing.”
The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about. The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry,owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910.
Read more:: http://sfbayview.com/2011/what-happened-to-black-wall-street-on-june-1-1921/
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