Source Material: 12 Years a Slave as an Adaptation

12 Years a Slave adaptationSolomon Northup’s autobiography, Twelve Years a Slave, was a bestseller in its own time, but like many others I’d never heard of this account of Northup’s gruelling ordeal in slavery until it was adapted into Steve McQueen’s masterpiece 12 Years a Slave. (McQueen’s film is actually the second adaptation of the book – television movie Solomon Northup’s Odyssey disappeared from cultural consciousness in much the same way as Northup’s writing).

Preparing for an interview with John Ridley – who wrote the film’s Oscar-winning screenplay – that never eventuated, I dusted off Northup’s book to gain some insight into the choices made in adaptation (dusted off figuratively – the book is widely available online).

I’m not the first to compare the two texts, and I’m certainly not going to be the last – especially with the film and book becoming part of the public high school curriculum in the United States – but the biggest surprise was how faithful Ridley was in his adaptation.

Continue reading at The Essential.

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