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Movie Clip Discussions

Are you looking for movie clips that will stimulate discussion or illustrate a given point? Well take notes, sit back, and enjoy Jonathan's movie clip page.

12 Years a Slave

Dynamic Image
"True and Right for All”
(Summit Entertainment, 2013)

Main Point: Universal truth – right and wrong – has not changed and will not change. Ever. What is true for one person is true for all people. God purposefully made it that way.

The Movie Clip:
Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave offered great insight into the issue of slavery by focusing on one man and his quest to be free of it. Solomon Northup, a freeman born in New York, was tricked and kidnapped by slave traders, and then smuggled into the South where he was promptly sold under the name of “Platt.”

Northup then spends the next 12 years bouncing from one slave owner to another and back and forth a few times, as well. Some owners are much more cruel than others. A well-educated man, Solomon tries to use his wits to escape the South and return home to his family who have no knowledge of his whereabouts. Time and time again, he’s defeated – and punished for his efforts – until he befriends a Canadian (played by Brad Pitt) who gives him the help he needs to escape his plight.

The film is rated R and rightly so. It shows the awful cruelty of slavery, as well as includes strong, racist language, and even a scene of rape. The clip below has no violence, but does include racist slurs.

Introducing the Clip:
12 Years a Slave was a film released in late 2013 that captured the attention of the world because it showed the capture, kidnapping, smuggling, and selling into slavery a freeman named Solomon Northup. Based on a true story, the movie shows the struggles that Solomon, known to his slave owners as “Platt” faces as he tries to escape slavery in the South and return to his family in the North. Up to this point, Northup hasn’t been successful; he’s tried to use his education and wits to benefit him, but he’s been betrayed and defeated time and time again. But then he meets a carpenter named Bass (played by Brad Pitt) whom he befriends. I want you to listen to a conversation between Northup’s cruel owner, Epps, and the carpenter known simply as Bass. They have a conversation about life that was true then and is true now. It impacted and dominated their world; it does the same to our world.

Scene Script:


The clip is a simple one; it contains a conversation between Epps, the cruel slave owner, and Bass, a carpenter that he’s hired. In the clip, Bass challenges Epps’ understanding of law, truth, justice, and righteousness. The conversation moves fairly quickly, and the clip is a brisk one, but the key dialogue is as follows:
    Bass: What right have you to your niggers, when you come down to the point?

    Epps: What right? I bought them. I paid for em.

    Bass: Of course you did, and the law says you have the right to hold the niggers, but begging the law’s pardon, it lies. Suppose they pass a law taking away your liberty, making you a slave. Suppose.

    Epps: That ain’t a supposable case.

    Bass: Laws change, Epps. Universal truths are constant. It is a fact, a plain and simple fact, that what is true and right is true and right for all, white and black alike.


Transitional Statement:

Those two men had a sharp disagreement about slavery, but they had an even bigger disagreement about truth. The wealthy slave owner didn’t seem to understand universal truth while the humble carpenter did. The slave owner got a lesson in truth that day, but here’s what I want YOU to understand. That conversation that happened 160 years ago has bearing on your lives today. Truth exists. Truth can be known. And truth doesn’t change. In fact, universal truth hasn’t ever changed and never will! Period. What is true for one person is true for all people. That is the reality that God designed on purpose. God wants our lives to be guided by truth, and that can’t happen if the truth is constantly changing. So God gave us unchanging truth so we’ll know how to live and please Him. If we live by God’s truth, we won’t be fooled by bad laws or cultural trends. Let’s talk about how we can do that.

Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.

CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.

Discussion Questions:

  1. AROUND THE CIRLCE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and the era of history we’d least like to visit.

  2. ASK A FEW: In the clip, what did the two men seem to disagree about? Why?

  3. ASK A FEW: What reason did Epps, the slave owner, give for being concerned with Bass’ well-being, but not for his slaves’ well-being?

  4. ASK A FEW: Why did Bass say that “there is no justice nor righteousness in this slavery”?

  5. ASK A FEW: Interestingly, Bass made it sound as though “the law” about slavery was in disagreement with “truth and justice.” Is that even possible? What do you think and how do you know? (Leaders – This is a crucial question to answer correctly. Of course the law had slavery wrong! It literally enslaved hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. Laws that hide truth and rob people of justice are no laws at all.)

  6. ASK A FEW: Bass ends up by saying, “Laws change, Epps. Universal truths are constant.” What makes something a “universal truth”? Can you name some universal truths? (Leaders – Truth and universal truth are really the same thing. What is true is true for the whole universe. For example, “God exists” is a universal truth. Gravity is a truth – no matter what you believe, if you jump off of a building, you will splat at the bottom.)

  7. ASK A FEW: Bass then said that “It is a plain and simple fact that what is true and right is true and right for all.” Do you agree or disagree? Can you give an example or two?

  8. Read the following passage:

      Romans 1:18 - 2:8 (ESV)

      For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

  9. ASK A FEW: In the very first line, the writer says that God’s wrath – His anger – is being revealed against those who suppress truth. Does that sound overly harsh to you? Why or why not?

  10. ASK A FEW: In Romans 1:19, the writer says, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” According to the very next line of Scripture, why did God make things that way?

  11. ASK A FEW: The writer also accuses us of trading the truth of God for a lie? How did Epps the slave owner do that? How do you and I do that?

  12. ASK A FEW: How do you define truth? In other words, what makes something true?

  13. ASK A FEW: Why can’t truth change?

  14. ASK A FEW: In Epps’ and Bass’ time, people tried to make slavery sound like it was God’s idea and a good thing, though God hates slavery. In what ways do you see people trying to change truth – God’s truth – these days?

  15. ASK A FEW: Truth was God’s idea. He made truth self-evident and unchanging. In other words, He made truth crystal clear (self-evident) and unchanging (unable to be changed). Why do you think He did that?

  16. AROUND THE CIRCLE: What must you do immediately to align yourself with the truth God has made crystal clear to you?

Wrap Up:
In the clip we watched, Epps and Bass had a disagreement over truth. The disagreement wasn’t over slavery, really. It was over truth. We know that because Bass, the carpenter said that what was right and true was really right and true for everyone. He made his point by asking the question, “What if the laws of the land changed and YOU were made into a slave?” Epps didn’t like that, but he came face to face with the fact that laws DO change…though truth never does.

A lot of people today struggle to understand truth. I think there are three crucial aspects to truth, and I want to wrap us up by sharing what they are as simply as I can.

The first is very simple: truth exists. Nobody can really doubt this logically. If someone asks me, “Did you eat breakfast this morning?” there is a true answer to that question. Truth – right and wrong exists. One of the best ways we know that truth exists is because God exists. In fact, Jesus, God’s perfect Son, even called Himself “truth.” In John 14:6, Jesus said He was the “way, the TRUTH, and the life.” If you think about that, it means that truth isn’t a concept, or something we swear to tell in a courtroom. Truth is a Person! Truth exists. We all know it.

The second reality about truth is just as important: truth can be known. What good does truth serve if no one has any knowledge of it? The cool thing about universal truth – which God created – is that it can be known. We aren’t left to blindly flail our way through life, bouncing from one mistake to another. We can have confidence that right and wrong exists (even when we choose wrong).

Finally, the last important reality about truth is that it doesn’t change. Again, what good would truth be if we got adjusted to it, but then it changed? If truth about murder being wrong switched between OK and not OK, a lot of people would lose their lives, right? But truth doesn’t change. Ever. What is right has ALWAYS been right. What is wrong has ALWAYS been wrong. Take, for example, the idea of slavery; a long time ago, lots of folks thought it was OK…but it wasn’t. (Long before the nation of America wrestled with the notion of slavery, God personally freed hundreds of thousands of slaves from Egypt. See the Book of Exodus.) Truth doesn’t change because God’s Word doesn’t change. If God’s Word changed, He’d be a liar…and God is not liar.

God created truth on purpose so we’d know how to live our lives. Granted, we are all going to choose to live a lie from time to time, but we know that’s what we’re doing. We’re “without excuse” according to the Bible passage we just read. There are definitely benefits to living the truth, and consequences for not.

As we close in prayer, think about your life and whether you live it by God’s truth. If you don’t live it by God’s unchanging, perfect truth, I invite you to hang around a few minutes after we pray to talk about that so we can help you.

Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith

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