12 Years a Slave: Feature Should Win Best Picture Oscar

And the Oscar goes to “12 Years a Slave.”

The most impressive and dramatic feature about the shameful institution of slavery, Steve McQueen’s  “12 Years a Slave” asks viewers to empathize with a innocent black man, kidnaped, tortured and caught in a brutal system, whose nature, implications and aftermath American society still refuses to confront.

Many critics have compared the historical and cultural significance of “12 Years a Slave” to Hollywood films about the Holocaust, disregarding the fact that it took decades and a powerful filmmaker of Spielberg’s caliber to make “Schindler’s List,” one of his half a dozen masterpieces, in 1993.

Brutal and (almost unbearably) tough to  watch, “12 Years a Slave”should become required viewing, with serious discussion and analysis to follow, at all level of education in America, including elementary and high schools.

Please don’t mention the kitschy but enjoyable classic melodrama “Gone with the Wind,” which swept the Oscars back in 1939, as a major Hollywood feature (and statement) about slavery.

I can only speculate why it too so long for the slaveholding tradition to remain unexamined.  I have no doubts that the film benefited from the fact that it was made by an outsider, albeit a black one, the British artist Steve McQueen.