The year 2013 hasn't been the proudest for Florida, especially when it comes to issues of race. This is the year of George Zimmerman's innocence. It's the year Taylor Chapman harrassed a Dunkin Donuts employee using the n-word. It's the year one Miami Dolphins player made headlines by using racist slurs to intimidate another. And on, and on, and on. In the past year, Florida did more to remind black Americans that they're still likely to be treated as second-class citizens in the year 2013 than perhaps any other state.
To say that liberal-minded Floridians have been embarrassed this past year is an understatement. Maybe that's why Sunshine State film critics (generally a liberal bunch) voted again and again to award Steve McQueen's film 12 Years A Slave in its annual Florida Film Critics Circle Awards.
Or maybe -- no, certainly -- it's just a damned excellent film. But the series of awards bestowed on the intense movie charting the experience of a free man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in pre-emancipation America has special resonance coming from Florida -- both as an indicator of the upcoming Academy Awards, and as one of the few, minor, racially sensitive things to come out of the state in a long while.
12 Years A Slave captured six FFCC awards this year, the organization announced this morning, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Chiwetel Ejiofor won the Best Actor award; Steve McQueen won Best Director; and Lupita Nyong'o won both Best Supporting Actress and Best Breakout.
The film was one of just two multiple award-winners; Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, was the other, winning a pair of technical achievements: Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography.
12 Years a Slave helped to launch this year's Oscar predictions game when it was released in November; in recent weeks, newer films like Spike Jonze's Her have dominated the Academy Awards discussion. That's not to say that Oscar voters will have forgotten 12 Years when it's time to vote; the affecting, violent yet restrained storytelling it uses is so effective that it's a movie that stays with you for a long, long time. The film has already made just about every top ten list of the year. So the FFCC's choices here aren't so much Oscars predictors (or admissions of white guilt) as they are just accepting the way that things are. The movie packs a punch.
Plus, the FFCC awards aren't likely to change anything that really affects the lives of black Americans in Florida: not its laws, not its political leanings, not the varying racial biases of its residents. But here in the Sunshine State, America's favorite (and oftentimes deserving) punching bag when it comes to issues of race, this is about as good as it gets.
Here's the full list of FFCC Award winners:
Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity
Art Direction/Production Design: Damien Drew et.al. and Catherine Martin et.al., The Great Gatsby
Foreign Language: Blue is the Warmest Color
Documentary: The Act of Killing
Breakout: Lupita Nyong'O, 12 Years a Slave
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Golden Orange: Dana Keith
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.
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