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Movie Critics: Depictions Of Slavery In Film

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The controversial new film 12 Years a Slave has been touted as the front runner for this year's Best Picture Oscar. It depicts the memoir of a free black man who was kidnapped into slavery.

While some are heralding it as an honest portrait of slavery, others complain that it's an exaggerated work of fiction.

What movies have dealt with depictions of slavery best and which ones have failed? And how has our narrative of slavery changed through cinematic history?

Russ Simmons, and fellow movie critics, John Tibbetts and Eric Melin discuss the topic of slavery in film, as well as review the  movies currently right out now.

Reviews (out of 5 Stars)


Gangland Wire (showing at the Screenland Crown Center, November 15-21, 1:45 & 6:30pm daily)

Locally produced documentary about the Kansas City Mafia and how mistakes within the organization were an integral part of bringing down some of the biggest mob bosses in the country.  Produced by Gary Jenkins retired veteran of the Intelligence Unit using actual wiretaps. All proceeds from the screenings go to benefit CinemaKC.

We The People (showing at Union Station, November 8-20, daily)

This feature IMAX documentary from Overland-Park Based Inland Sea Productions that tells the story of the founding of the United States. Narrated by Morgan Freeman and Kenny Rogers, the film includes images of some of America’s most iconic structures, paintings, photographs and documents. The film is being accompanied by a display of original historical documents, including one of the original 13 copies of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Susan B. Anthony’s trial proceedings.

Save The Tivoli: Go Digital or Go Dark ($130,000 by Dec. 12)

Kansas City's oldest independent movie theatre must convert its projection systems by the end of the year to stay in business.


  • Kevin Willmott, Director and Associate Professor at KU Film Department


Central Standard Film
Matthew Long-Middleton has been a talk-show producer, community producer, Media Training Manager and now the Community Engagement Manager at KCUR. You can reach him at Matthew@kcur.org, or on Twitter @MLMIndustries.