We have, in the last decade, witnessed a rapid increase in cinematic slave narratives and some academics would say that this can be seen as a recurring social phenomenon. Furthermore, it could be claimed that cinematic slave narratives can be seen as a modern reflection of the anti-slavery movements of the 19th century and the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century (Schroeter, 2016). But what is a cinematic slave narrative? Since there is no apparent academic work written on the subject, is it then possible to produce a specific definition and what are the reasons for this growing popularity? These are the main questions of this essay, which will be discussed through a close study of contemporary thoughts on the cinematic works: Django: Unchained (2013), The Birth of a Nation (2016) and Twelve Years a Slave (2013).
“There’s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that will not go unpunished forever.” (Northup, 2014:115).
With the conception of the slave narrative genre in the 18th century, some escaped African-American slaves found a way to expose the cruelty of their mistreatment to the world through descriptive auto- biographies. I will, in this essay define and analyse a series of the genre’s major characteristics through a close study of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave (2014), James Olney’s chapter “I Was Born”: Slave Narratives, Their Status as Autobiography and as Literature in Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates’ The Slave’s Narrative (1985) and Audrey Fish’s The Cambridge Companion to the African American Slave Narrative (2007).