12 Years a Slave, the Best Picture at the 86th Academy Awards, is a 2013 British-American historical epic drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the state of Louisiana for twelve years before his release. The first scholarly edition of Northup’s memoir, co-edited in 1968 by Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, carefully retraced and validated the account and concluded it to be accurate.
This is the third feature film directed by Steve McQueen written by John Ridley. Chiwetel Ejiofor starred in the leading role of Northup. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt and Alfre Woodard featured in supporting roles. Principal photography took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, from June 27 to August 13, 2012, on a production budget of $20 million. The locations used were four historic antebellum plantations: Felicity, Magnolia, Bocage, and Destrehan. Of the four, Magnolia is nearest to the actual plantation where Northup was held.
12 Years a Slave received critical acclaim following its release in 2013, and was named the best film of the year by several media outlets. It also proved to be a box office success, earning over $128 million on a budget of $20 million. In 2014, the film was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and received nine Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director for McQueen, Best Actor for Ejiofor, Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender, and Best Supporting Actress for Nyong’o. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Nyong’o, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Ridley. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) recognized the film with a Best Film award and a Best Actor award for Ejiofor.