Prize-winning artist turned Oscar-nominated director Steve McQueen on slavery, Pinocchio and stamps
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You compare your film 12 Years a Slave to Pinocchio. Can you explain?
Well, it's one of the films I compare it to. At the beginning of Pinocchio, these two men trick Pinocchio into the circus. That's similar to what happened to Solomon Northup [when he was kidnapped]. And Solomon's story is almost like a dark fairy tale--unimaginable, unbelievable, except it actually did happen.
One scene shows slave children playing while not 20 feet away, a man struggles to not be strangled by a noose. Were you trying to make them seem heartless?
During slavery, people lived under the possibility of violence happening to them at any moment. I had to find a way of depicting the normality of it, to show the physical aspects of slavery as well as the psychological.