Race & Cinematography in Film

Citizen Kane vs. 12 Years A Slave

Eli Bruce, Staff Reporter

At first glance Citizen Kane is just like any other movie out there. So why is this movie widely considered the greatest film of all time? It may be because of the cultural impact this individual movie had on the film industry. To believe this, people must have to think of the era in which this movie was released. So why is this movie so well loved by critics and baby boomers?

Made in 1941, this motion picture was originally a box office bust. The story was regarded as ‘too simple’ during the original run-time in theaters. This movie was to be left in the dust; another movie caught in the motions and lost in everyone’s mind. Orson Wells spoke in an interview many years later detailing how producers attempted to stop the filming of Citizen Kane. This comes to surprise many who know the movie since it is such a well regarded masterpiece. 

This film follows Charles Foster Kane after showing his last words which just so happen to be ‘Rosebud.’ The rest of the movie is a group of reporters trying to find the secret to these words and the deeper into the film you are taught who Mr. Kane was before his death. An owner of a magazine, a political figure who ran for president, and much more. The story is told in a flashback manner where the interviewer gathers information from Kane’s closest friends, leading the stories and specific moments in this man’s life to tell itself. All the while, you are left with the question “What is rosebud? Who is Rosebud?” 

Though it is a bland plot, with a poor cast of characters that are more average than not, I agree that it is the greatest film of all time. Now it is by no means the best or most intriguing movie, because it would in that sense fall somewhere in the middle of the pack. Instead, it is because of its mark on the world that it is regarded as pure genius.
The cinematography is some of the best I have ever seen and without this movie we would not have things such as panning, ceiling shots, full focus, falling camera angles and all of these cinematography terms which make modern movies great. I was so intrigued from start to finish solely on the filmmaking. This movie has way too much impact to be overlooked. For example, George Lucas the creator and director of the legendary “Star Wars” series gave thanks to the making of Citizen Kane which influenced his directing take on the series. But because of this new generation of film, where every movie made is practically a classic, Citizen Kane is being left to be forgotten by so many. 

12 Years a Slave is worthy of every ounce of praise it has received. An impactful journey on the cruelty of the slave trade in Americas 19th century, a free man named Solomon Northup gets captured and the truth is revealed about what being a slave in the south is like. Originally from New York he had no objection to slaves, and so this sets up great character development throughout the film. 

With a new perspective on the black experience shown in this movie, the director was not afraid to show the explicit actions made by slave owners.  

Though you may not notice, this movie (just like most movies) was heavily influenced by Citizen Kane. Panning of the camera as Solomon runs, showing ceilings and even the use of dialogue could clearly be connected. As with most well-regarded movies such as these this is the case though, but knowing Citizen Kane was the origin of it all, it makes the impact seem that much greater.  

But the impact the movie itself had was huge. It was based on a true story, and a story that needed to be told, and a story the public took well. I feel like now more than ever we need our culture to realize our history in a clear way such as slaverys misfortunes. A character that really intrigued me is Bass played by Brad Pitt. He is a great example on how people today would react to the cruelty. Bass challenges the slave owner on their views, and he befriends Solomon. It was heartwarming to see this, and I was rooting for them until the very climatic ending. This is definitely a modern classic, one I will be showing my kids when they are my age. 

Looking at both of these movies, and seeing the cultural influence versus the cultural importance, there are many points for both. “Citizen Kane’s” influence was in cinema, creating opportunities for aspiring filmmakers to come. “12 Years a Slave’s” importance was significant because of the realism shown and its power to connect to the audience no matter the race, opening viewers eyes on the harsh truth of our country. Both movies are definitely a must-watch, so go watch it because I am sure we all have something we can learn from these two films. 


You can watch both of these movies on Prime Video, and Citizen Kane is available on HBO Max.