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The praise for 12 Years A Slave has been almost universally positive, and it is not hype. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a freeborn African-American man who’s kidnapped into slavery, and starring Chiwetelu “Chiwetel” Ejiofor, the film is a riveting take on the gruesome practice–a part of American history many are too quick to gloss over.

Ejiofor winning anything less than an Academy Award for his stellar performance will be a travesty. The British actor’s managed to standout in a star studded cast that also includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, and many more.

While the film is already critically acclaimed, a strong showing at the box office (it is in theaters now, October 18) is the only way authentic, engaging and thought provoking films like these will continue to be made. With that in mind, here at 10 reasons watching 12 Years A Slave is essential, whether you’re the descendant of a slave (or a slave master), are just curious or phenomenal cinema is what you crave.

Photos: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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