Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Director Steve McQueen on his hope 'to be useful' in highlighting the plight of modern slaves

British film director Steve McQueen said he "wants to be useful" in highlighting modern day slavery. Photo: ITV News

After months of being feted at the most prestigious festivals and award ceremonies around the world, 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen arrives at the slightly shabby offices of an organisation that began fighting slavery before Solomon Northup’s terrible story of kidnap and enslavement had begun - and much, much longer before his book became an award-winning film.

Founded in 1839, Anti-Slavery International is the oldest international human rights organisation in the world.

It is run from Brixton in south London where McQueen was invited after accepting the invitation to become a Patron of the charity.

In the book lined rooms - there are thousands of works by anti-slavery campaigners dating back hundreds of years - he met the staff who work all over the world and listened in shock as they told him the stories of exploitation, trafficking, and forced labour that continues to this day.

Steve McQueen meets with anti-slavery campaigners in Brixton Credit: ITV News

It is estimated that there are more than 20 million people held in slavery across the world today, a number says McQueen that far exceeds the slavery numbers from the days of Solomon Northup’s story, which is based in America's Deep South in the 19th century.

It was in researching Northup’s book and story says McQueen that he discovered the work of Anti-Slavery International and pledged his support.

He is asking people to join the campaign to highlight the terrible suffering of modern slaves, and lobby their governments.

Today he had just arrived from Westminster where he had shown MPs his film and asked for Northup’s book to be put on the school curriculum here in the UK.

It would be a shame said McQueen, if in 150 years they make another slavery film about us today and how little we did.

In a couple of weeks McQueen is set to win big at the Baftas and then is poised to make history by becoming the first black filmmaker to win a Best Director Oscar.

He is hoping for success of course, but is also hoping his profile can make a difference, in helping to consign slavery to the history books for good, and really make it a thing of the past.

Steve McQueen (centre) with the cast of 12 Years a Slave at the Golden Globes last month.