I didn’t think it was possible to make a beautiful film about such a brutal subject. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the man who achieved it is the Turner Prize winning artist turned film director, Steve McQueen.
The use of the medium close-up reminded me of the powerful imagery in The Passion of Joan of Arc. In both films these shots are used to change the focus, and pace, of the film. From watching a story unfold we turn to a study of the characters themselves, their emotions and the impact that the events we’ve been watching have had on them.
This is Solomon Northup’s story but I think you could make a series of really interesting shorts from the perspectives of the other characters (Patsey, Ford, Epps etc) that give us more of an insight into their backgrounds and motivations.