Something amazing happened at Studio One last night. When asked a single question, nearly every hand in the packed house shot straight up.
"Who's seen the film, 12 Years a Slave?" NPR correspondent Michele Norris asked an enraptured crowd. She was joined on stage by John Ridley, the screenwriter nominated today for an Academy Award for his work on the highly-acclaimed film.
For the next 90 minutes, Norris led a captivating conversation, exploring with Ridley the incredible and challenging process of creating a film that deals so honestly with very heavy, historic material. They discussed writing the script, staying true to historical facts, the limitations of a film set, and dealing with the business of making a movie. Ridley was thoughtful, well-spoken and very candid.
"This isn't Black-American history, this is OUR history...and we've got a lot of catching up to do," he said, his words quieting the room.
To round up the discussion, Norris invited the audience to ask questions of their own, creating a two-way conversation with the crowd. Oscar speculations were answered today with the announcement of Ridley's nomination. It was an inspiring and thought-provoking evening for all who attended.
"It's about understanding where we are and where we've come from," said Ridley. Last night's discussion got us just a little bit closer to that place.
This event was produced by NPR Presents, NPR's multiplatform national live events initiative that furthers the mission of public radio. Events bring to the stage world-class content that is as diverse as the American land and sound-scapes, programmed for a curious, culturally-engaged and savvy global audience. NPR Presents is built on the belief in two-way conversations and intimate storytelling with our audience and in collaboration with our member station community.