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                             12 YEARS A SLAVE




                               Written by

                              John Ridley




                              CARD: 1841

                               FADE IN:

                         

          1 INT. TOWNHOUSE/STUDY - DAY 1


           -EARLY APRIL, 1841-
           We are close on a PAIR OF BLACK HANDS as they open A

           FINELY WRAPPED PACKET OF VIOLIN STRINGS.

           WE CUT TO the hands stringing a VIOLIN. It's not a high
           end piece, but it is quite nice.

           WE CUT TO a wide shot of the study. Sitting in a chair
           with violin in hand is SOLOMON NORTHUP; a man in his late
           twenties. Everything about Solomon, his mien and manner,
           is distinguished. But he, too, seems a hardy individual.
           Someone who has known manual labor in his time.

           Solomon begins to lightly play his violin, as if testing
           the strings, their tuning. Satisfied, Solomon begins to
           play vigorously. As he does, we make a HARD CUT TO:

                         


           INT. HOUSE/LIVING ROOM - EVENING

           We come in on a lively affair. A dinner party is being
           thrown within the confines of a fairly stately house. In
           attendance are EIGHT COUPLES. All are WHITE and all are
           FAIRLY YOUNG, in their early twenties. The men and women
           are dressed in very fine attire. We should get the sense
           that for the most part they are people of means.

           The furniture has been set aside in the living room. At
           the moment the couples are engaged in the dancing of a
           REEL.

           The music they are dancing to is being played by Solomon,
           having cut directly from the tune he was previously
           playing. He plays with a light determination, and in no
           way seems possessed with empty servitude.

           Solomon concludes the reel, and the dancers break into
           enthusiastic applause, which is followed by personal
           thanks and congratulations from all. It should be clear
           that despite their respective races there is much
           admiration and appreciation for Solomon's abilities.

                         


           INT. NORTHUP HOUSE/BEDROOM - MORNING

           It is a Saturday morning. Clad in her finest attire is
           ANNE; Solomon's wife, a few years younger than he. We
           see also the Northup children: MARGARET who is eight, and
           ALONZO who is five. They are handsome, and well groomed
           kids. Anne straightens up the children. She finishes,

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          2.

                         3 CONTINUED: 3
           she rises up and stands behind them, almost as if
           preparing to pose for a portrait.
           They all wait a moment, then Solomon enters the foyer.
           He stands and looks admiringly at his family. ADMIRINGLY
           stressed. It isn't that he doesn't have love for them,
           he does as well. But in the moment, he truly admires his
           greatest accomplishment: a family that is healthy and
           well and provided for. He goes to his children, and
           hands each a coin, then goes to Anne. Gives her a kiss
           on the cheek. The children giggle at the sight.

                         


           EXT. STREET - DAY

           Solomon and his family are out walking along the streets
           and groves of Saratoga.

           The streets are well populated this morning with many
           people out strolling. Most are WHITE, but there are
           BLACKS as well. They are FREED BLACKS who mingle fairly
           easily - though not always completely - with the whites.
           We see, too, a few BLACK SLAVES who travel with their
           WHITE MASTERS. These pairings are largely from the south
           and - despite the fact the blacks are slaves - they are
           not physically downtrodden, not field hands. They are
           well dressed and "leading apparently an easy life" -
           comparatively speaking - as they trail their masters.

           As they walk, Solomon and his family arrive to an
           intersection well-worn and muddied from horse and cart
           traffic. Solomon and his children easily jump across the
           muck. Anne stands at the lip of the puddle, calls for
           Solomon to help her across.

                          ANNE
           Solomon...
           Solomon, turning back to his wife with a broad smile
           waving her forward:

                          SOLOMON
           Come, Anne. Jump.

           The children, now smiling as well, egg their mother on.

                          ALONZO MARGARET
           Jump. You can make it. I've done it. You can make
           it.

                         

                          ANNE
           I will not ruin my dress. Catch
           me!

           Solomon moves close, holds out his arms. Yet, there's
           still just a bit of mischievousness in his eyes. Anne
           gives her husband a lightly stern look to which Solomon
           replies.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          3.


                          SOLOMON
           I will catch you, Anne.

                          (BEAT)
           I will.
           Again, lightly stern:

                          ANNE
           You will.

           And with that Anne takes the leap. Solomon catches her,
           swings her around grandly and sets her down lightly to
           the delighted applause of the children. That done,
           Solomon takes Anne's hand and leads her on.

           As Solomon and his family make their way, among the
           slaves on the street, we see one in particular; JASPER.
           As he trails his MASTER he can't help but note Solomon
           and his family as they enter A STORE. His intrigue of
           this most handsome and harmonious group should be
           obvious.

           With his Master occupied, Jasper moves slyly toward the
           STORE. Frozen on the spot, Jasper looks on admiringly.
           Suddenly a voice barks out-

           A VOICE (O.S.)
           Jasper! Come on!

                         

           INT. STORE - LATER

           We are inside the store of MR. CEPHAS PARKER; a white man
           and a supplier of general goods. Solomon greets him

                          WITH:

                          SOLOMON
           Mr. Parker.

                          PARKER
           Mr. Northup. Mrs. Northup.

           With money in hand the Northup children move quickly
           about the store looking for items to purchase.

                         

                          CONTINUED:


           Anne looks over some silks and fabrics. Parker suggests

                          TO SOLOMON:

                          PARKER (CONT'D)
           A new cravat, Solomon? Pure silk
           by way of the French.

                          SOLOMON
           We are in need of a fresh carry
           all for the Mrs's travels.

                          PARKER
           A year's passed? Off to Sandy
           Hill?

                          ANNE
           I am.
           Using a long pole, Mr. Parker fetches down a CARRY ALL
           from an upper shelf.

                          PARKER
           Something to suit your style, but
           sturdy enough for the forty miles
           round trip.
           Handing the Bag to Anne, she is immediately taken by it.

                          ANNE
           It's beautiful.

                          SOLOMON

                          (CAUTIOUSLY)
           At what price?

                          ANNE
           We will take it. Children, come
           see what your father has just
           purchased for me.
           As the children run over - chattering excitedly about the
           new gift - they RUN PAST JASPER who has quietly entered
           the store.
           At the checkout counter sits a portrait of WILLIAM HENRY
           HARRISON, the edges draped in black crepe. Before the
           book sits a LEDGER. Mr. Parker asks of Solomon:

                          PARKER
           If you would sign our condolence
           book. My hope is to find a way to
           forward it to the Widow Harrison.
           Sad days for the nation.

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, certainly. Poor Mrs. Harris
           and her children. I hope brighter
           times ahead.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          4A.

                         5 CONTINUED: (2) 5
           Jasper looks scared, timid. It's as though he'd like to
           engage, but is unsure of as to how. Noting Jasper, Parker

                          SAYS:

                          PARKER
           A moment, sir, and you will be
           assisted.

                          SOLOMON
           If we could discuss the price...

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          5.

                         5 CONTINUED: (3) 5

                          PARKER
           Forgive me, Mrs. Northup. A
           customer waits. Welcome, sir.
           To Jasper, with good nature:

                          SOLOMON
           Shop well, but mind your wallet.

                          PARKER
           Ignore the gentleman's nonsense.
           Now, may I interest you in a new
           cravat? Pure silk by way of the--
           Before Parker can finish, the door opens. It's Jasper's
           Master, FITZGERALD. He's stern, clearly displeased.

                          FITZGERALD
           Jasper!

                          (TO PARKER)
           My regrets for the intrusion.

                          SOLOMON
           No intrusion.
           Fitzgerald looks to Solomon. It is a cold glare as
           though he wasn't speaking to, and has no interest in a
           response from a black man. Looking back to Parker:

                          FITZGERALD
           Good day, sir.

                         

                         6 6

           INT. NORTHUP HOUSE/DINING ROOM - EVENING

           Anne, busy in the kitchen, puts the final touches to the
           meal, which is just about to begin. Solomon, in the
           meanwhile, sits at the head of the table reading from a
           NEWSPAPER. He reads to his children solemn news of the
           funeral arrangements for the recently deceased President
           Harrison.

                          SOLOMON
           "Thus has passed away from earth
           our late President."
           Solomon starts from the top of the article.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           "During the morning, from sunrise,
           the heavy bells had been pealing
           forth their slow and solemn toll
           while the minute guns announced
           that soon the grave would receive
           its trust. Our city as well as
           our entire nation has been called
           to weep over the fall of a great
           and good man. One who was by the
           wishes of a large majority of our

                          (MORE) (CONTINUED)

          5A.

                         6 CONTINUED: 6

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           people raised to fill the highest
           place of trust within their gift.
           William Henry Harrison."
           A long moment of quiet, the family continuing to eat.
           Then, from Margaret:

                          MARGARET
           Will you read it again?

                          ANNE
           Not just now, darling.
           Anne enters the dining room and places a large chicken at
           the center of the table. As she takes a seat, all heads
           are bowed.

                          MARGARET
           For food that stays our hunger,
           For rest that brings us ease,
           For homes where memories linger,
           We give our thanks for these.

                          ALL
           Amen.

                          SOLOMON
           Margaret, that was wonderful.

                          MARGARET
           Thank you, Papa.

                          SOLOMON
           Alonzo, do you have something to
           say?

                          ALONZO
           Yes, I helped Momma make this.

                          ANNE
           Yes, and you were such a good
           help. Especially making the gravy.

                          MARGARET
           Papa, I would very much like to
           learn how to play the violin.
           Could you teach me?

                          ALONZO
           Me too!

                          MARGARET
           Yes, but I asked Papa first.

                          SOLOMON
           Both of you, calm down. We will
           have our first lesson after this
           wonderful dinner. And on that
           note, let's start eating.

                          (CONTINUED)

          5B.

                         6 CONTINUED: (2) 6
           The family all tuck in to their meal. The scene is one of
           warmth and happiness.

          6.

                         

                         

          7 INT. NORTHUP HOUSE - NIGHT 7

           Solomon and Anne have fun and difficulty putting the
           unruly children to bed. They are tucked in, and each
           given a kiss good night. As Margaret lays down to sleep,
           Anne blows out the candle darkening the room.
           Silhouetted in the doorway, Solomon takes Anne in his
           arms, holds her tightly as they both luxuriate in the
           simple, beautiful gift that is their children.

                         

                         7A 7A 

           INT. NORTHUP HOUSE - NIGHT

           Now alone together, we see Anne and Solomon wrapped in
           each other's arms. Beyond being physically close,
           emotionally close, they are just so very comfortable with
           one another. They are the very representation of a
           couple who are made for each other.

                          
           They look at each other for a prolonged time.

                          SOLOMON 

                          (COMICALLY FORLORN) 
           Three weeks. Two days. 

                          ANNE 
           It is the custom. I wonder what 
           you'll do without me? 

                          SOLOMON 
           I won't stay idle. 
           SOLOMON's eyes lower. 

                          ANNE 
           Darling, it's good money. 

                          SOLOMON 
           If only I didn't have to share 
           your cooking with other people. 
           ANNE holds his gaze. 

                          ANNE 
           You don't. 
           They kiss. 

                         

                         8 OMIT 8

          7.

                         

                         

          9 EXT. NORTHUP HOUSE - MORNING 9

           We are just outside the Northup house. A CARRIAGE waits
           with a DRIVER. Anne and the children are dressed for
           travel - Anne sporting HER NEW CARRY ALL. The Driver
           loads bags into the carriage.
           For her parting gift, Anne gives her husband a kiss.

                          SOLOMON
           Travel safely.

                          ANNE
           Stay safely.
           Anne and the children loaded up, the Driver chides the
           horse and the carriage heads off. Solomon waves a hearty
           good bye to his wife and children.

                         

                         10 10

           EXT. PARK - DAY

           Solomon is now out for a stroll. He passes two men - two
           in particular - who stand outside conversing with MR.
           MOON himself: MERRILL BROWN and ABRAM HAMILTON. Brown
           is about 40, with a countenance indicating shrewdness and
           intelligence. Hamilton is closer to 25, a man of fair
           complexion and light eyes. Both are finely, if perhaps a
           bit garishly, dressed. Hamilton, as Solomon describes
           him, slightly effeminate.
           Moon, spotting Solomon:

           MR. MOON
           Call the Devil's name... There he
           is now. Mr. Northup...! I have
           two gentlemen who should make your
           acquaintance. Messrs. Brown and
           Hamilton.

                          BROWN
           Sir.

           MR. MOON
           Mr. Northup, these two gentlemen
           were inquiring about distinguished
           individuals, and I was just this
           very moment telling them that
           Solomon Northup is an expert
           player on the violin.

                          HAMILTON
           He was indeed.

                          SOLOMON
           Mr. Moon is being overly gracious.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           8.

                         10 CONTINUED: 10

                          BROWN
           Taking into consideration his
           graciousness and your modesty, may
           we trouble you for a moment of
           your time to converse, sir?

                         

                         11 11

           EXT. PARK/PAVILION - LATER

           We make a jump to a green space. Solomon, Brown and
           Hamilton are sitting at a bench.

                          SOLOMON
           A circus?

                          HAMILTON
           That is our usual employee. The
           company currently in the city of
           Washington.

                          BROWN
           Circus too constricting a word to
           describe the talented and merry
           band with which we travel. It is
           a spectacle unlike most have ever
           witnessed. Creatures from the
           darkest Africa as yet unseen by
           civilized man. Acrobats from the
           Orient able to contort themselves
           in the most confounding manners.

                          HAMILTON
           And I myself in aide of Mr. Brown;
           an internationally renowned
           practitioner in the art of
           prestidigitation.

                          BROWN
           We are on our way thither to
           rejoin the company having left for
           a short time to make a small
           profit from our own exhibitions.

                          HAMILTON
           The reason for our inquiry with
           Mr. Moon...

                          BROWN
           Yes. We had just a devil of a
           time in procuring music for our

                          (MORE)

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           9.

                         11 CONTINUED: 11

                          BROWN (CONT'D)
           entertainments. Men of true
           talent seemingly in short supply.

                          SOLOMON
           Thank you sir...

                          BROWN
           If we could persuade you to
           accompany us as far as New York...
           We would give you one dollar for
           each day's service and three
           dollars for every night played at
           our performances. In addition we
           would provide sufficient pay for
           the expenses of your return from
           New York here to Saratoga.

                          SOLOMON
           You understand this is all very
           sudden.

                          HAMILTON
           Consider it an opportunity to see

                          THE COUNTRY--

                          SOLOMON
           It's intriguing...

                          HAMILTON
           If there is any way in which you
           would give consideration to the
           offer...
           Solomon gives the whole deal one last consideration.

                          SOLOMON
           The payment offered is enticement
           enough, as is my desire to visit
           the metropolis.

                          HAMILTON
           We are delighted, sir. So
           delighted. Though we would add
           that our travel plans--

                          BROWN
           We would like to depart with
           haste.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          10.

                         11 CONTINUED: (2) 11

                          SOLOMON
           As luck would have it, my wife and
           children are traveling. I will
           write her of our plans.

                          BROWN
           Excellent! I would beg you
           collect yourself, then we may
           proceed.

                         

                         12 12

           INT. NORTHUP HOUSE/BEDROOM - LATER

           Back in his house, we see Solomon packing: putting some
           clothes in a travel case, and collecting his violin as
           well.

                         

          13 INT. NORTHUP HOUSE/STUDY - LATER 13

           Solomon sits down to write a letter; pen poised over
           paper with already a few lines written. But Solomon
           thinks better of it. WITH LITTLE THOUGHT HE TEARS THE

           PAPER AND SETS IT ASIDE. WE SHOULD GET THE SENSE THAT

           THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF BEING ABLE TO COMMUNICATE BY LETTER

           IS LOST ON SOLOMON. THIS FACT WILL HAVE GREAT WEIGHT IN

           THE NEAR FUTURE.

                         

                         14 14

           EXT. SOLOMON'S HOUSE/INT. COVERED CARRIAGE - LATER

           Solomon enters the buggy, carpet bag in hand. Brown and
           Hamilton are waiting. They ride in a covered carriage
           led by a pair of "noble" horses.

                          HAMILTON
           No letter to post?

                          SOLOMON
           No need. My return will coincide
           with my family's.

                          BROWN
           We're off then.

                         

                         15 15

           INT. PUB - EVENING


           -MID TO LATE APRIL, 1841-
           We find ourselves in a roadside pub. It serves the
           purpose of drinking and diversion, and little more. As
           Solomon plays his violin, Brown and Hamilton perform a
           decent, paired magic routine before a SPARSE AUDIENCE NOT

           OF "SELECT CHARACTER."

          11.

                         

                         

          16 INT. PUB - LATER 16

           After the show, the pub now fairly empty, Solomon,
           Hamilton and Brown sit down to eat. Hamilton and Brown
           drink, but again Solomon abstains. Though Solomon
           remains cool, Hamilton and Brown put up a great show of
           being disappointed as Hamilton counts out what little
           money was collected.

                          HAMILTON
           Not an additional tip from a one
           of them. They expect to be
           entertained for nothing.

                          BROWN
           And not satisfied a bit despite
           giving them more than what they
           paid for.

                          SOLOMON
           It's the national mood. There's
           too much grief to make room for
           frivolity.

                          HAMILTON
           My sincerest apologies, Solomon.
           You were promised opportunity, and
           you were given none.

                          BROWN
           The opportunity is with the
           circus. A two man show poorly
           promoted, what were we to expect?
           But the circus bills itself.

                          HAMILTON
           True.

                          BROWN
           I have told you of the circus with
           which we are connected. Creatures
           from the darkest of Africa.
           Acrobats from the Orient who--

                          SOLOMON
           You have described it, yes.

                          BROWN
           Yes. We need to return
           immediately to Washington.
           Solomon...I believe us familiar
           enough now, but forgive me if I am
           bold...would you consider making
           the trip with us?
           Solomon gives a bit of a laugh at the idea.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          12.

                         16 CONTINUED: 16

                          HAMILTON
           Entertaining at pubs and inns has
           it's place, but a man of your
           skills deserves better.

                          BROWN
           Hear, hear.

                          HAMILTON
           And more importantly you would
           build your own name and following.
           The circus tends to attract those
           with the highest of reputations.
           An introduction here and there
           could amount to a lifetime of
           reward. Now would be the time.
           With your family away, an
           opportunity presents itself.

                          BROWN
           Said as fellow artists as well as
           businessmen. Well worth the
           effort at least.

                          SOLOMON
           You present a flattering
           representation. As my family will
           be traveling back shortly, perhaps
           I might commit only to one trial
           engagement.

                         

                          HAMILTON
           Oh, very good, sir. Very good. I
           cannot recall being so excited.

                          BROWN
           There is a practical concern. If
           you are to continue on with us you
           should obtain your free papers.

                          SOLOMON
           Not necessary.

                          BROWN
           Here in New York, no. But we will
           be entering slave states and as a
           matter of precaution... It's to
           all our benefit we should not have
           to come to account for your well
           being.

                          HAMILTON
           Six shillings worth of effort
           could well save much trouble
           later.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          12A.

                         16 CONTINUED: (2) 16

                          BROWN
           We'll go to the Customs House in
           the morning, then travel on. Good
           business all around.

          13.

                         

                         

                         17 OMIT 17

                         

          18 EXT. WASHINGTON - DAY 18

           The city is a swarm of people. At the moment the populace
           is displaying both sorrow and anticipation. Sorrow for
           the loss of the President. Many are dressed in black,
           and black crepe hangs nearly everywhere. Black armbands
           are frequently seen, and the occasional American Flag
           hung at half mast. As well, there are portraits of
           Harrison at varying locations.
           Having arrived in Washington, Solomon, Hamilton and Brown

           RIDE ONWARD IN THEIR CARRIAGE.

                         

                         19 19

           INT. GADSBY HOTEL/DINNING ROOM - EVENING

           A decent though crowded, boisterous and smoke-filled
           joint. Very lively. Solomon, Hamilton and Brown are
           among several parties drinking in the hotel's bar. As
           with seemingly everywhere in the city black crepes
           accessorize the background. Brown counts out $43.00 IN
           COIN on the tabletop. Solomon is astonished by the
           amount.

                          BROWN
           Forty-three dollars. All to you.

                          SOLOMON
           That...it's far more than my wages
           amount to.

                          BROWN
           Consider the remainder an advance
           from the circus. I cannot tell
           you...I honestly wish you had seen
           the expression of our director
           when I described your abilities.
           He was fairly overcome with
           excitement.

                          HAMILTON
           You should have invited him to sup
           with us.

                          BROWN
           I did. I did, but so many
           preparations before the company is
           to depart.

                          SOLOMON

                          GENTLEMEN--

                          BROWN
           Tomorrow we shall prepare for our
           Washington debut. But tonight, our
           thoughts are with the great man

                          (MORE) (CONTINUED)

          13A.

                         19 CONTINUED: 19

                          BROWN (CONT'D)
           for whom this city prepared solemn
           memorial. He has passed from the
           praise of men to receive the
           plaudit of his heavenly father. A
           fine man has passed. Let us
           remember him with a drink.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          14.

                         19 CONTINUED: (2) 19
           Both Hamilton and Brown hold up their tankards to drink.
           Solomon, a bit reluctantly, does the same.

                          HAMILTON
           Cheers.

                          BROWN
           Another. Our departed President
           deserves all the salutation we can
           imbibe.
           Hamilton and Brown drink again, and Solomon does as well.

                         

                         20 20

                          OMIT

                         

                         21 OMIT 21

                         

          22 EXT. ALLEY - LATER 22

           WE MAKE A HARD CUT to Solomon outside of the Pub, in an
           alley, with Brown and Hamilton in silhouette, back-lit by
           the street lights. He is violently ill, hunched over and
           retching horribly.

                          HAMILTON
           That's all right Solomon. No
           shame in it. No shame at all.

          15.

                         

                         

          A23 INT. GADSBY HOTEL - STAIRCASE A23

           Hamilton and Brown help Solomon to lumber up the spiral
           staircase, passing the occasional bemused guest.

                         

          23 INT. GADSBY HOTEL/SOLOMON'S ROOM - NIGHT 23

           Hamilton is placing a spittoon near Solomon's bed, where
           a prone and reeling Solomon lays. Hamilton sits on the
           bed. As he strokes Solomon's sweaty face, Hamilton
           speaks sweetly.

                          HAMILTON
           I'm afraid that Brown and I
           haven't brought you much luck.
           But rough waters bring smooth
           sailing. Eventually they do.

                          SOLOMON
           ....So...so sorry...

                          HAMILTON
           Shhh. We won't hear it. We
           won't.

                          BROWN
           Let him sleep.

                          HAMILTON
           Hmm. A good night's sleep. And
           tomorrow...tomorrow you will feel
           as well and refreshed as though
           the earth were new again.
           Hamilton lingers a bit too long and a bit too close to
           Solomon for Brown's taste. With more than a bit of

                          SIGNIFICATION:

                          BROWN
           Hamilton! Nothing more we can do
           for him.

                          HAMILTON
           Such is the pity.
           Displaying an odd sort of disappointment, Hamilton slinks
           away from the bed. He crosses to, and BLOWS OUT A
           CANDLE. The room goes dark with a blackness more than
           night. Brown and Hamilton exit. Solomon lays in the
           dark and moans. His sounds becoming MORE AND MORE

           DISTRESSED.

                         

                         24 24

           INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - DAWN


                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          16.

                         24 CONTINUED: 24
           Solomon stirs, then slowly awakes to his new
           circumstances. He finds himself in a nearly lightless
           room about twelve feet square with walls of solid
           masonry. There is a thick and well-locked door, a small
           window covered with iron bars and a shutter. The only
           furniture is a wood stool and an old fashioned, dirty box
           stove. As Solomon rises he sees that his HANDS are
           CUFFED - the chain running to a bolt in the ground - and
           his LEGS IN IRONS. At first Solomon is incredulous. But
           that emotion is replaced first by fury and then panic.
           He begins to pull on the chains, fight against them. He
           does so with increasing desperation. Solomon flails
           about, the sounds of the steel chains whipping and
           beating against the masonry. He grunts and screams
           without regard as the cuffs and irons bite into his
           flesh, but he cannot pull himself free.
           After several minutes of intense effort, Solomon tires,
           slows, then finally he collapses. And in this collapsed
           state he remains.

                         

                         25 25

           INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - MORNING

           Solomon again awakens. He hears sounds beyond the
           door...footsteps. Eventually the door opens. Enter
           JAMES BURCH - who runs the slave pen - and EBENEZER
           RADBURN who works as a turnkey and overseer.
           As the door opens, this is the first light to seep into
           the otherwise near-black room. The shine is painful to
           Solomon's eyes. With no salutation whatsoever, Burch

                          ASKS:

                          BURCH
           Well, my boy, how yah feel now?
           Solomon rises up as best he can. With all the resolve he
           can put together he states what he considers to be fact:

                          SOLOMON
           I am Solomon Northup. I am a free
           man; a resident of Saratoga, New
           York. The residence also of my
           wife and children who are equally
           free. I have papers. You have no
           right whatsoever to detain me--

                          BURCH
           Yah not any--

                          SOLOMON
           And I promise you - I promise -
           upon my liberation I will have
           satisfaction for this wrong.

                          BURCH
           Resolve this. Produce your
           papers.

                          (CONTINUED)

          17.

                         25 CONTINUED: 25
           With confidence Solomon goes to the pocket of his
           trousers. He searches one, then the other, but they are
           empty. He feels quickly about himself, but clearly his
           papers have been lifted. Solomon's confidence shifts,
           but to resolve rather than fear. Papers or none, he will
           not be easily cowed. Still, Burch asserts:

                          BURCH (CONT'D)
           Yah no free man. And yah ain't
           from Saratoga. Yah from Georgia.
           A moment. Not a word spoken among the trio, but Solomon
           and Burch do some serious eye fucking, neither man
           yielding. Burch says again:

                          BURCH (CONT'D)
           Yah ain't a free man. Yah nuthin'
           but a Georgia runaway.
           Burch waits for Solomon to acquiesce. Solomon does not
           in any way. Both men exchange a long and daring stare.
           The two are clearly at an intellectual stand off. Burch,
           leans to Radburn, SAYS SOMETHING WHICH WE CANNOT

           DISTINGUISH.
           Radburn walks off-camera and returns with a pair of
           "instruments:" a PADDLE - the flattened portion, which is
           about the size in circumference of two open hands, and
           bored with a small auger in numerous places. He also
           carries a WHIP. A cat-o-nine tails; a large rope of many
           strands. The strands unraveled and a knot tied at the
           extremity of each. Burch says again:

                          BURCH (CONT'D)
           Yah a runaway nigger from Georgia.
           Solomon stands with a quiet stoicism. He will say
           nothing of the kind.
           As that is the case, Solomon is seized by both men. He is
           pulled over the bench, face downward, shirt still on his
           back. Radburn then STEPS ON HIS CHAINS, holding Solomon
           down in a bent position.
           With no preamble, Burch begins to beat Solomon about the
           back with the paddle. Burch strikes him wordlessly - no
           taunting, no sneering. Solomon screaming against each
           blow. His back immediately SWELLING WITH WELTS AND

           BRUISES.
           This beating continues on and on and on until quite
           literally Burch WEARS HIMSELF OUT with the effort.
           Dripping in sweat and panting:

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          18.

                         25 CONTINUED: (2) 25

                          BURCH (CONT'D)
           Yah still insist yah a free man?

                          SOLOMON
           ...I...I insist...
           Burch regrets hearing this. Not from sympathy, but
           rather because he's nearly too tired to go back to
           beating Solomon. Yet, as if returning to work, Burch
           returns to pummeling Solomon. Burch punctuates the blows

                          WITH:

                          BURCH
           Yah a slave. Yah a Georgia slave!
           Burch continues to strike, and strike... This time until
           the paddle SNAPS IN HALF. Burch then GRABS THE WHIP.
           Hardly missing a stroke, he whips Solomon relentlessly,
           the flails cutting into Solomon's back. Again, Burch's
           arm tires before Solomon "breaks."

                          BURCH (CONT'D)
           Are yah slave?

                          SOLOMON
           ...No...
           Burch goes back to whipping and whipping, and whipping...

           SOLOMON'S BACK IS NOW TORN OPEN WITH LACERATIONS AND
           OOZING WITH BLOOD. Finally Burch can whip no more. He
           pours sweat and sucks air, leaving himself just enough
           energy to take up his instruments and EXIT. Radburn
           lingers for a moment. He takes the irons off Solomon's
           legs. Opens the window some. As he makes these
           gestures, in a patronizing and confidential manner, one
           wrought with poor sincerity::

                          RADBURN
           I seen a good many of the black
           kind just where yah're. Sick.
           Make me sick. Often times the
           situation was resolved, and I
           think; what was all the beatin'
           and abuse for? Things end as they
           should, and the violence was for
           naught. So why cause trouble when
           they ain't no cause for it? Be of
           a cooperative nature, and things
           don't need be particularly
           unpleasant.

                          (BEAT)
           Or, yah can carry on like yah
           been, and I fear yah won't live to
           see Sunday next.
           With that thought, Radburn exits. Solomon rests. But to
           rest seems like giving in to defeat. He begins pulling

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          19.

                         25 CONTINUED: (3) 25
           on his chains. But for all his struggling, the chain
           loosens none. Solomon calls out:

                          SOLOMON
           Help me! Someone help me!
           If anyone at all hears him, they do not respond. Solomon
           continues his plaintive cry for assistance.

                         

                         26 26

           EXT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - CONTINUOUS

           Beginning with a TIGHT SHOT on the shuttered, barred
           window of Burch's dungeon - Solomon's cries barely eking
           beyond the space - THE CAMERA PULLS BACK from the
           building, onto the city until clearly visible is the
           Nation's capital. It's icon's of freedom - the WHITE
           HOUSE, the CAPITOL BUILDING - fairly mocking Solomon's
           captivity. Simultaneously, barren at the early hour and
           cluttered with litter and the remains of previous day's
           procession, the city is a bleak and forboding sight.

                         

                         27 27

           INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - DAY

           IT IS DAY NOW. The door to the yard is thrown open. The
           harsh white light floods all over Solomon.

                         

                         28 OMITTED 28

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          20.

                         28 CONTINUED: 28

                         

                         

                         

          29 MOVED TO SC. A32 29

          21.

                         

                         

          30 EXT. BURCH'S DUNGEON/YARD - DAY 30

           It is a yard just beyond Burch's. The yard is hemmed in
           by a brick wall. In the yard are two men, and a boy.
           The oldest is CLEMENS RAY a man of about 25 years of age.
           He is well educated. JOHN WILLIAMS is about 20 years
           old. He is born and bred a slave, is lacking in
           education, and overwhelmed with fear of the situation.
           Finally there is a child about 10 years of age who
           answers to the name of Randall.
           Solomon, Clemens Ray, John and Randall ALL STAND NAKED.
           Though they try to cover their privates a bit, they are
           all aware of the uselessness of modesty. Radburn is
           present. He has before him A COUPLE OF BUCKETS OF COLD
           WATER. He throws water on the naked men.

                          RADBURN
           Go on. Warsh up.
           The men, soaking in humility as well as water, begin to
           scrub with A SINGLE BAR OF HARSH SOAP passed among them.

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           The boy, too. Get him clean.
           Solomon takes some soap and rubs it over Randall.

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           Scrub now. Git 'em clean.
           Solomon scrubs harder. Randall - clearly cold and
           uncomfortable - appeals to Solomon.

                          RANDALL
           Do you know when my Mama will
           come?

                          RADBURN
           Hush him up!
           Seeing Solomon has no answer for him, Randall begins to
           cry.

                          RANDALL
           Mama ..! Mama! Is she going to
           come?
           Doing all he can to spare the child from a certain

                          BEATING:

                          SOLOMON
           Quiet, please.
           Randall is becoming nearly inconsolable.

                          RANDALL
           Mama!

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          21A.

                         30 CONTINUED: 30

                         

                         
           Saying anything to keep the boy quiet:

                          SOLOMON
           Your mother will come, I swear she
           will, but you must be silent.
           Please. Be silent!
           On the seeming strength of Solomon's promise, Randall
           goes silent. Solomon looks to Radburn, who just throws
           water on the soapy men.

          22.

                         

                         

                         31 OMITTED 31

                         

          A32 INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - EVENING A32

           Radburn brings food in to Solomon; a shriveled piece of
           meat and some water. Just barely enough to sustain
           Solomon. Radburn also has a SHIRT.

                          RADBURN
           That old thing of yours is just
           rags and tatters. Need something
           proper to wear.
           Solomon doesn't move for the clothing.

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           Go'won. Put it on.
           With slow defiance, Solomon does as instructed. He
           removes what remains of his old shirt - the one he was
           wearing when first kidnapped - and puts on the one
           Radburn brought him. The shirt's ill-fitting and dirty.
           Despite that, Radburn says:

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           There. Tha's fine. Tha's fine.
           Got no gratitude?

                          SOLOMON
           ...Thank you...

                          RADBURN
           Yah keep bein' proper, yah'll see
           how things work out.
           Radburn starts to take the old shirt.

                          SOLOMON
           No! It was from my wife.

                          RADBURN
           Rags and tatters. Rags and
           tatters.
           Taking the shirt, the "rags and tatters" as he calls
           them, Radburn exits, locking the door behind him.
           Solomon sits with the plate of food before him. He
           pushes the plate away rather than eat.

                         

                         32 32

           EXT. BURCH'S DUNGEON/YARD - DAY

           Sitting together out in the yard are Clemens Ray, John
           and Solomon. Over time they have drawn trustworthy
           enough to speak with one another. At the moment Solomon
           is still trying to apply reason to the situation.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          22A.

                         32 CONTINUED: 32
           Randall wanders about in the background. As usual, he
           calls out for his "Mama." By now, however, his calls
           should feel like little more than background noise.

                          SOLOMON
           This can't stand. It is a crime.
           I believe now someone lay in wait
           for me. My drink was altered...
           We are free men. They have...they
           have no right to hold us.
           Solomon waits for a response from the others. They give
           none.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           We need a sympathetic ear. If we
           have an opportunity to explain our

                          SITUATION--

                          CLEMENS
           Who in your estimation is that
           sympathetic ear?

                          SOLOMON
           The two men I journeyed with. I'm
           certain they're making inquires at
           this very moment.

                          CLEMENS
           I would be just as certain they
           are counting the money paid for
           delivering you to this place.

                          SOLOMON
           They were not kidnappers. They
           were artists. Fellow performers.

                          CLEMENS
           You know that? You know for
           certain who they were?

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          23.

                         32 CONTINUED: (2) 32
           The fact is, Solomon can't say for certain.

                          CLEMENS (CONT'D)
           How I reckon the situation:
           whatever past we had...well,
           that's done now. The reality to
           come is us being transported
           southward. New Orleans if I were
           to venture. After we arrive,
           we'll be put to market. Beyond
           that... Well, once in a slave
           state I suppose there's only one
           outcome.

                          JOHN
           No.

                          CLEMENS
           I don't say that to give you empty
           agitation, John...

                          JOHN
           For y'all. For y'all they ain't
           nothin' but that! But John was'n
           kidnapped. John bein' hold as
           debt, tha's all. Massa pay his
           debt, and John be redeemed--

                          CLEMENS
           Boy, our masters will not come for
           us.
           John is nearly beside himself with panic.

                          JOHN
           Now John's...John's sorry for
           y'all, but tha's how it be. Where
           y'all goin', yah goin' witout
           John. Massa take care of me.
           Massa take care.

                          RANDALL
           Mama!
           All three men turn and look. At the moment Randall
           doesn't call out emptily. At the door to the yard is
           Burch along with two women. One in her late twenties;
           ELIZA. She is "arrayed in silk, with rings upon her
           fingers, and golden ornaments suspended from her ears."
           Though a slave, Eliza was a mistress and has - to this
           point - lived well. This is reflected in her airs and
           her speech. The other is a little girl, light in skin
           color, of about seven or eight. This is EMILY, Randall's
           half sister.
           As she enters the yard Eliza squeals with high delight,
           then breaks into tears of both sorrow and joy. Clearly
           this is mother and child being reunited.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          24.

                         32 CONTINUED: (3) 32
           As Burch locks the yard door, Eliza clutches Randall.
           She is overcome with emotion.

                          ELIZA
           My darling. My sweet, sweet baby.

                         

                         33 33

           INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - EVENING

           Later in the evening. Solomon now shares his space with
           Eliza and her children. As the children rest, Eliza
           drops into a lament as if pleading her case to Solomon
           who lends a sympathetic ear.

                         

                         
           Both slyly, and with a bit of aggrandizement:

                          ELIZA
           When I say I had my master's
           favor, you understand. Above even
           his own wife, I had it. Do you
           know that he built a house for me?
           Built it on the sole condition
           that I reside there with him. The
           added promise in time I would be
           emancipated. And for nine years
           he blessed me with every comfort
           and luxury in life.
           Displaying the finery she still wears:

                          ELIZA (CONT'D)
           Silks and jewels and even servants
           to wait upon us. Such was our
           life, and the life of this
           beautiful girl I bore for him.
           But Master Berry's daughter...she
           always looked at me with an unkind
           nature. She hated Emily no matter
           she and Emily were flesh of flesh.
           As Master Berry's health failed,
           she gained power in the household.
           Eventually, I was brought to the
           city on the false pretense of our
           free papers being executed. If I
           had known what waited; to be sent
           south? I swear I would not have
           come here alive.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          25.

                         33 CONTINUED: 33
           Eliza turns to her children:

                          ELIZA (CONT'D)
           My poor, poor babies.

                         

          34 INT. BURCH'S DUNGEON - NIGHT 34

           It's the deep of night, all are sleeping. A KEY TURNS IN
           THE LOCK AND THE DOOR OPENS. Burch enters with Radburn
           beside him. Both carry LANTERNS with them. Hardly
           giving Solomon and Eliza a moment to rouse themselves,

                          BURCH DEMANDS:

                          BURCH
           Come on. Get yer blankets. Get
           up.
           Sensing that things will not end well:

                          ELIZA
           No, please don't...

                          BURCH
           I don't want to hear yer talk.
           Get in the yard.

                          ELIZA
           Please...

                          RADBURN
           Ain't no need for all that.
           Putting hand to Randall's head.

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           Jus takin' a li'l trip, tha's all.
           Don't want to frighten the
           chil'ren none over a li'l boat
           ride, do yah?
           Eliza gives a shake of her head to the negative.

                          RADBURN (CONT'D)
           Alright then. Git yerselves up.

                         

                         35 35

           EXT. BURCH'S DUNGEON/YARD - NIGHT

           We now have Solomon, Clemens, John, Eliza and the
           children. They are being cuffed together. As John is
           cuffed, he pulls back. Scared. He beings in

                          DESPERATION:

                          JOHN
           John's massa gunna pay his debt.
           John's massa gunna come for him.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          26-28.

                         35 CONTINUED: 35
           Not wanting to hear any of this talk, Burch strikes John
           several times in the head with a sap-like instrument.
           Weakened, but again:

                          JOHN (CONT'D)
           John's massa gunna--
           Burch again strikes John until he's quiet. Curiously,
           Emily and Randall don't even flinch. Why would they?
           They are quite used to seeing this kind of violence.

                          BURCH
           Not a word out of none a yah. Not
           a word.
           Burch and Radburn begin driving the shackled slaves from
           the yard.

                         

                         A36 A36

           EXT. BURCH'S DUNGEON/INT. WAGON/FLAT BED - LATER

           The slaves are lead to a flat bed of the horse and
           carriage. They are made to lay down side-by-side. We stay
           with them as some sort of cloth is flung over them,
           obscuring and blacking out their view.
           At that moment, the screen is BLACKENED and we hear the
           sound of the cart moving in haste.

                         

                         36 36

           EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. DOCK - NIGHT

           Led by Burch, the group of slaves arrive to a dock. They
           are taken quickly up a gangplank and onto the steamboat
           ORLEANS as the CAPTAIN, CREW and a MULATTO WOMAN WATCH,
           but do not interfere.

                         

                         37 37

           INT. ORLEANS/HOLD - CONTINUOUS

           The slaves are hustled down one at a time into a dark,
           dank hold among barrels and boxes of freight...and RATS.
           Burch comes around and "checks" the chains; makes sure
           they are all secure and locked.
           Satisfied, he heads up out of the hold. Radburn follows.
           Alone in the dark in the hold, John cries, as does Eliza.
           Solomon stares down Burch for as long as he can, as if
           wishing bad things. As if wanting to exact some measure
           of revenge. But the greater insult is that Burch and
           Radburn, engaged in conversation, take no notice of
           Solomon whatsoever. He is that insignificant to them.
           That fact, that reality, makes Solomon boil with a rage
           he cannot express in words.

                         

                         38 38

                          OMIT

          26-28A.

                         

                         

          38A INT. STEAMBOAT - NIGHT 38A 

           We are now in the engine room of the steamboat, pistons 
           pumping, black oily cogs turning, the power and the 
           rhythm are both aggressive and hypnotic. A shovel comes 
           into view, feeding the furnace. 

                         

          38B EXT. SEA - DUSK/DAWN 38B 

           The steamboat is en route between Washington and Norfolk. 
           We tilt up from the violent water foam to the powering 
           paddles of the boat. 

                         

          39 MOVED TO 43A 39 

          29.

                         

                         

                         40 OMIT 40 

                         

                         41 OMIT 41

                         

                         42 OMIT 42

                         

          43 INT. ORLEANS/HOLD - LATER - NIGHT 43 

           Down in the hold the slaves eat, pray. The MULATTO WOMAN
           moves among them, catching ELIZA's eye.

                          MULATTO WOMAN
           Cheer up and don't be so cast
           down.

                          
           Clemens Ray and Solomon watch as the Mulatto Woman
           returns to top deck, the trapdoor locked firmly behind 
           her. Clemens Ray turns to Solomon with a deadpan stern 
           expression. 

                          CLEMENS RAY 
           If you want to survive, do and say 
           as little as possible. Tell no 
           one who you really are and tell no 
           one that you can read and write. 

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           30.

                         43 CONTINUED: 43
           Clemens Ray turns away from Solomon, eyes lost into the 
           distance. 

           CLEMENS RAY (CONT'D) 

                          (SLOWLY) 
           Unless you want to be a dead 
           nigger. 
           Solomon's face is one of a confused despair. 

                         

          43A EXT. NORFOLK/PORT - DAY 43A 

           We see a flat overhead view of the port of Norfolk. 
           Sardines are laid out to dry in rows, glittering in the 
           day's sun as if like silver pennies. A chain of slaves 
           enter the frame and are led one by one on to the docked 
           vessel. 
           MORE SLAVES - about 15 in all, of various genders and 
           ages - are brought on board. Chief among them is ROBERT 
           who fights viciously with his captors. "With all haste" 
           is shoved down into the hold. 
           Having taken their cargo as far as they care or need to, 
           Burch and Radburn depart. They do so without a word 
           spoken to Solomon or the others. 
           With this new and sizable batch of slaves on board, the 
           crew again CASTS OFF, and the Orleans makes its way 
           again. 

                         

          44 INT. ORLEANS/GALLEY 44

           Solomon is back cleaning in the galley. As he cleans, he
           again watches Robert prep food. Robert's skill with a
           knife is not lost on Solomon.

                         

          45 INT. HOLD - LATER - DAY 45 

           The hold is packed tighter now. 
           Muzzle covering his face, Robert is shackled with his 
           hands tied behind his back. Solomon and Clemens Ray look 
           on. 
           A sailor descends the staircase and takes off Robert's 
           muzzle, shooting him a forbidding look. He leaves. 

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           31.

                         45 CONTINUED: 45

                          CUT TO: 
           Solomon, Clemens Ray and Robert, now in mid-conversation. 

                          ROBERT 
           I say we fight. 
           Robert delivers this in a hushed voice. 

                          SOLOMON 
           The crew is fairly small. If it 
           were well planned, I believe 
           they could be strong armed. 

                          CLEMENS RAY 
           Three can't stand against a whole 
           crew. The rest here are niggers, 
           born and bred slaves. Niggers 
           ain't got the stomach for a fight, 
           not a damn one. 

                          ROBERT 
           All I know, we get where we 
           travelling we'll wish we'd died 
           trying. 

                          CLEMENS RAY 
           Survival is not about certain 
           death, it is about keeping your 
           head down. 
           Solomon looks at Clemens Ray, agitated -- his voice now 
           raised above the previous whispers. Grits his teeth. 

                          SOLOMON 
           Days ago I was with my family, in 
           my home. Now you tell me all is 
           lost. "Tell no one who I really 
           am" if I want to survive. I don't 
           want to survive, I want to live. 

                         

                         46 OMIT 46 

                         

                         47 OMIT 47 

                         

          47A EXT. SEA - DAY 47A 

           The steamboat paddles pound the water, filling the whole 
           frame. The vessel ploughs on south. 

          32.

                         

                         

                         48 OMIT 48 

                         

          48A INT. HOLD - NIGHT 48A 

           The slaves are asleep. 
           A Sailor descends the ladder approaching Eliza. He bends 
           down and attempts to wake the daughter by caressing her 
           face. 
           Solomon rouses, and looks across to witness the scene. 
           From his vantage point, we see Eliza stand to interrupt 
           the Sailor. The Sailor looks at Eliza, Eliza looks back 
           at him. Knowingly she leads him off into a corner of the 
           hold. 
           As she does so, Eliza passes Robert who jumps up to stand 
           between Eliza and the Sailor. Stretching out a firm hand 
           to the sailor's shoulder, Robert's look says "No you 
           don't." 
           Clemens Ray is awake now, watching. 
           There is an odd moment of stillness between the Sailor 
           and Robert, an impasse. 
           We focus on the Sailor's face. Slowly, a greasy smile 
           erupts upon it. Back now to Robert's face, a look of 
           incomprehension. 
           Robert looks down. We follow his gaze to the knife that 
           has already been jabbed unseen between Robert's ribs. 
           The sailor withdraws the bloody blade. 
           A wide shot of the two men. Robert collapses to the 
           floor like a sack of potatoes. 
           Clemens Ray and Solomon react. Complete horror. 

                         

                         

                         49 OMIT 49 

                         

                         

                         50 OMIT 50 

          33.

                         

                         

          51 EXT. ORLEANS/DECK - DAY 51 

           We are back up on the deck of the ship. SOLOMON AND 
           CLEMENS RAY dump ROBERT's body over the side of the ship. 
           Solomon watches as the body churns for a moment in the
           wake of the vessel... then sinks beneath the water. 
           Clemens Ray, with no sentimentality:

                          CLEMENS RAY 
           Better off. Better than us. 

                         

          51A EXT. NEW ORLEANS HARBOUR - DAY 51A 

           Solomon's POV from the back of the steamship of Robert's 
           corpse slipping gracefully into the water. 

                         

          52 EXT. NEW ORLEANS/PORT - DAY 52


           -MID MAY, 1841-
           A white male, fairly smart, with broad shoulders, stands

                          AND BELLOWS-

                          RAY
           Clemens...! Clemens Ray!
           We are in the port of New Orleans, one of the busiest in
           the young nation.
           On the dock itself there is a bustle of activity as goods
           are loaded and unloaded from a various ships. It's a bit
           of controlled chaos as a VARIETY OF LANGUAGES are spoken
           and shouted while slaves are shuttled from the Orleans to
           a holding pen. Solomon, and all the slaves are
           overwhelmed by all that is happening around them.
           Two men - among many - are awaiting the arrival of the
           Orleans. They are JONUS RAY - Clemens Ray's master - and
           DAVIS who is the solicitor of Mr. Ray. They both look
           like they mean business. The moment the gangplank is
           laid, Ray yells for Clemens.
           Clemens, seeing his master, is nearly crazy with delight.
           He is, uncharacteristically beside himself. Ironically,
           his master now represents "freedom."

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          34.

                         52 CONTINUED: 52

                          CLEMENS
           ...My master... Master Ray, sir!
           Master Ray!
           Clemens pulls on his chain. As he does so, Several other
           slaves collapse in his effort to reach his master, like
           dominos.

                          RAY
           Who is in charge of this vessel?

                          CAPTAIN
           I am the Captain.

                          RAY
           I am Mr. Jonus Ray. My solicitor
           has documentation verifying that
           the Negro named Clemens Ray is my
           property.
           As he reads PAPERS handed to him by Davis:

                          CAPTAIN
           I know nothing of--

                          RAY
           You are ordered by court to return
           that property immediately, or face
           charges of thievery.

                          CAPTAIN
           My duty is to transport goods. I
           am not responsible for their
           origin.

                          RAY
           Remove these contraptions!
           To his mate:

                          CAPTAIN
           Free him!
           Biddee does as ordered. Once free, Clemens hugs and sobs
           over his master as would a lost and then found child.

                          RAY
           It's all well, now, Clemens. You
           will return home with me.
           (to the Captain)
           Consider this notice and warning.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          35.

                         52 CONTINUED: (2) 52
           Ray, Davis and Clemens head away. Solomon seems both
           desperate and hopeful of some aid from Clemens and Ray.
           But there is none forthcoming. Ray and Clemens continue
           on - Clemens not so much as even looking back in
           Solomon's direction. Solomon stands and watches as they
           fade into the environs and are gone from sight.

                         

                         53 53

           EXT. NEW ORLEANS/PORT - LATER

           Hours later. The slaves sit off on one side of the dock,
           baking in the sun, awaiting their fate.
           THEOPHILUS FREEMAN - a tall, thin-faced man with light
           complexion and a little bent - moves along the deck
           calling out names from a list. The slaves STAND as they
           are called.

                          FREEMAN
           Oren. John. Lethe. Eliza.
           Randall. Emily. Platt... Platt!
           Solomon does not respond. Freeman looks around. He
           spots Solomon.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           Captain, who shipped that nigger?

                          CAPTAIN
           Burch.
           Freeman steps to Solomon. He gives him a looking over.

                          FREEMAN
           Stand up.
           Solomon does as told.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           You fit the description given.
           Why didn't you answer when called?

                          SOLOMON
           My name is not Platt. My name is--
           Freeman strikes Solomon hard across the face.

                          FREEMAN
           Your name is Platt, and I will
           teach you your name so that you
           don't forget.
           (to the Captain)
           Shackle my niggers. Get them to
           my cart.

          36.

                         

                         

          54 I/E. CART - LATER 54
           Solomon is carted off along with the rest of "Burch's
           stock:" Eliza and her children, John and Solomon.
           As they move off from the port in a make-shift cart, it
           opens up to the frenzic, busy port.
           For the first time Solomon sees true and severe slavery.
           These are not visiting servants, such as Jasper was back
           in Saratoga. These are humans held in strict bondage -
           herded like cattle, chained together as if in a "chain
           gang." Slaves are evident not merely by the color of
           their skin. The residue and accessories of slavery are
           everywhere. Blacks almost universally display scars -

           THICK AND HEAVY DEAD TISSUE FROM LACERATIONS LEFT
           UNTREATED - brands, and are often missing limbs. Blacks
           are held in all types of shackles, from simple chains to
           elaborate bindings, to neck collars that are spiked.
           Some are muzzled or forced to wear bits. One slave is
           attacked by a dog and the slave owner. The dog pulls and
           tears at the slave's clothes. THESE IMAGES SHOULD BE A

           CONSTANT AND CONTINUAL CANVAS TO THE PIECE. EVER

           PRESENT, BUT NOT REALLY COMMENTED ON AS THEY ARE THE
           NORM. They should be a reminder that not only are people
           being oppressed, but that there is an entire system of
           oppression in place.

                         

                         55 55

           EXT. FREEMAN'S SLAVE PEN - LATER

           "Burch's stock:" arrive at Freeman's slave pen. They are
           led in by Freeman and his house slave CAPE - a mulatto.
           The yard is enclosed by plank, standing upright, with
           ends sharpened instead of brick walls as with Burch's.
           Including Burch's group there are about 30 SLAVES in the
           pen.
           Solomon and the others look around and see nothing but
           downtrodden and despondent faces. Three men sit next to
           each other with muzzles and quietly stare back at this
           new batch of arrivals. One attempts to speak, but all
           that comes out is a muffled, unintelligible sound.

                         

                         56 56

           EXT. FREEMAN'S SLAVE PEN - LATER

           The slaves are in various states of undress, men and
           women alike. They clean themselves, scrubbing with soap
           and water. Women wash their hair. Men shave, skin is
           oiled. Freeman walks among them, inspecting them as they
           primp themselves.

                         

                         57 57

           INT. FREEMAN'S SLAVE PEN - LATER

           The slaves are given new clothes by Cape. The men are
           given hat, coat, shirt, pants and shoes. The women

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          37.

                         57 CONTINUED: 57
           frocks of calico and handkerchiefs to bind about their
           heads.

                         

          58 INT. FREEMAN'S/GREAT ROOM - LATER 58

           It's an odd, ironic scene. The slaves are in a large and
           fairly ornate room within Freeman's house. CAPE PLAYS A
           PAINFUL TUNE ON A FIDDLE - background music - as Freeman
           tries to line up A SMALL GROUP OF THE SLAVES, he becomes
           less patient, jittery and nervous, knowing that his
           livelihood is at stake, he wants his slaves to make a
           good impression. Sometimes his patience gets the better
           of him, and his hands move freely in direction of the
           slaves.
           The business has the air of an etiquette class, though
           what Freeman is trying to do is coach the slaves into
           being more "sellable." He works with them in groups of
           five or so.

                          FREEMAN
           Tallest to smallest, understand?
           Are you taller than her? Then
           you'd go before her. Do it.
           Move.
           (to the group)
           Keep your heads up. A sense of
           direction; that's how you look
           smart. None of those saucer eyes.
           Rid yourself of that smile. Look
           like a goddamn grinnin' monkey.
           Put the least thought in your
           head. C'mon, now. Think of
           somethin'.
           Weary of Cape's playing, Solomon moves to Cape. He asks:

                          SOLOMON
           Can you play a reel?

                          CAPE

                          (DISMISSIVE)
           Nah. I don't know no reel.

                          SOLOMON
           If I may...?
           Cape looks to Freeman:

                          FREEMAN
           He sick of your caterwaulin'. Let
           him play, boy. Let's see what he
           can do.
           Cape reluctantly hands the fiddle over to Solomon.
           Solomon tunes it a bit, then begins to play. His fingers
           stiff at first, he takes a moment to warm up. But as he
           warms up he is, despite the circumstances, masterful.

                          (CONTINUED)

          38.

                         58 CONTINUED: 58
           THE SLAVES ALL CLAP ALONG. SOME DANCE ALONG. All admire
           his work. Freeman chief among them.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           Keep on. Keep on.
           Solomon continues to play.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           A damn sight better than you,
           Cape. A damn sight better.
           Cape looks bitter as Solomon plays on.

                         

                         59 59

           INT. FREEMAN'S/GREAT ROOM - DAY

           We come in on an odd sort of sight; A JUMBLE OF ACTIVITY.
           CUSTOMERS have come to see Freeman's lot - the room all
           gussied up with flowers. Freeman moves among them,
           displaying them as a rancher would prize chattel.
           Freeman makes the slaves hold their heads up - "look
           smart" as he previously admonished them. They are made
           to walk briskly back and forth while customers feel their
           hands and arms and bodies, turn them about and ask what
           skills they possess. The Customers routinely make the
           slaves open their mouths and show their teeth.
           At times a MALE or FEMALE SLAVE are taken off to the
           side, stripped and inspected more minutely.
           One of them, John, is stripped and inspected.
           Cape, as he's done previously, plays his fiddle.
           A buyer - WILLIAM FORD; a man of middle age, and an
           attractive nature in his tone of voice - consults a list
           he's drawn up and asks of Freeman:

                          FORD
           What is the price for the ones
           Platt and Eliza?

                          FREEMAN
           A thousand for Platt; he is a
           nigger of talent. Seven hundred
           for Eliza. My fairest price.

                          FORD
           You will accept a note?

                          FREEMAN
           As always, from you, Mr. Ford.
           Eliza is beside herself as it seems she is about to be
           separated from her family. She begs of Ford:

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          39.

                         59 CONTINUED: 59

                          ELIZA
           Please, sir... Please don't
           divide my family. Don't take me
           unless you take my children as
           well.

                          FREEMAN
           Eliza, quiet!

                          ELIZA
           You will have the most faithful
           slave in me, sir. The most
           faithful slave that has ever
           lived, but I beg that you do not
           separate us.
           A BUYER interrupts the skirmish and approaches Freeman
           and delivers coolly, eyeing Randall-

                          BUYER
           Your price for the child?

                          FREEMAN
           You see how fit the boy is. Like
           ripe fruit. He will grow into a
           fine beast.
           Randall is made to run, and jump by FREEMAN - exhibiting
           his activity and his condition.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           Six hundred, and that's fair and
           final.

                          BUYER
           Done.
           He reaches into his waistcoat and retrieves his wallet,
           counting out six hundred dollars, placing them into the
           already extended hand of Freeman.
           Ford sees the distress and panic in Eliza; it visibly
           touches him. He now tries to buy EMILY to console her.

                          FORD
           How much for the little girl? You
           have no need for her. One so
           young will bring you no profit.

                          FREEMAN
           I will not sell the girl. There's
           heaps 'n piles of money to be made
           off her. She is a beauty. One of
           the regular bloods. None of your
           thick-lipped, bullet headed,
           cotton picking niggers.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          39A.

                         59 CONTINUED: (2) 59

                          FORD
           Her child, man. For God's sake,
           are you not sentimental in the
           least?

                          FREEMAN
           My sentimentality stretches the
           length of a coin. Do you want the
           lot, Mr. Ford, or do you pass on
           them all?

                          FORD
           I will take the ones Platt and
           Eliza.
           Eliza grips her children tight.

                          ELIZA
           I will not go without my children.
           You will not take them from me.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          40.

                         59 CONTINUED: (3) 59
           As if to prove her wrong, Freeman puts a foot to Eliza
           and harshly kicks her away from Emily.

                          ELIZA (CONT'D)
           Please, don't. No!
           Freeman, to Cape:

                          FREEMAN
           Take her out of here.
           Cape DROPS HIS FIDDLE, begins to pull Eliza away toward
           the door of the room, but her screaming and pleading do
           not abate. IT IS CLEARLY UNSETTLING TO THE OTHER BUYERS.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           Keep her quiet.
           Cape tries to muzzle her with his hand, but Eliza
           continues to scream for her children as Emily does for
           her mother.

                          EMILY
           Mama... Mama!

                          FREEMAN

                          (TO SOLOMON)
           Play something! Get the fiddle
           and play.
           As ordered, Solomon takes up Cape's fiddle and begins to
           play lightly.

                          FREEMAN (CONT'D)
           Play!
           Solomon plays harder and more loudly. Still, it is
           barely enough to drown out Eliza's cries. Freeman gets
           the other slaves to clap along with Solomon's playing.
           Emily frees herself and runs back, crying but endeavoring
           to be strong-

                          EMILY
           Don't cry, Mama. I will be a good
           girl. Don't cry. I will keep my
           head up and I will look smart. I
           will always look smart.

                          FREEMAN
           Make merry, all of you! Goddamn
           it, Cape! Keep her quiet or it's
           your damned hide I will take it
           out of!
           Cape pulls a rag, stuffs it in Eliza's mouth. Clamping
           both hands over her mouth, he hauls Eliza from the room
           by the head. IT IS AN UGLY, UGLY SCENE.

          40A.

                         

                         

          60 EXT. FORD PLANTATION - LATER 60

           Driven in a horse drawn wagon by Ford are Solomon and
           Eliza. Eliza is sullen to say the least. With the loss
           of her two children she has dropped into a depression she
           will not be able to pull out of.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          41.

                         60 CONTINUED: 60
           They arrive to the FORD PLANTATION. The main house of
           the plantation - the GREAT HOUSE as they are commonly
           called - is sizable. Two stories high with a piazza in
           front. In the rear are also a log kitchen, poultry
           house, corncribs and several slave cabins. The
           plantation is described as "a green spot in the
           wilderness."
           With the arrival of Master Ford there is a flurry of
           activity - the "excitement" of a new delivery. MR.
           CHAPIN, a white overseer, instructs a slave named SAM.

                          CHAPIN
           Sam, call to the Mistress.

                          SAM
           Mistress! Mistress, they arrivn'.
           MISTRESS FORD EXITS the house - along with her attending
           slave, RACHEL, who is a cook AS WELL AS SAM'S WIFE - and
           travels to her husband, kisses him, then laughingly

                          INQUIRES:

           MRS. FORD
           Did you bring all those niggers?
           Two of them? You got two?

                          FORD
           Make me something to eat, dear.
           The day has taken it from me.

           MRS. FORD
           Let me get a look at them...

                          FORD
           Mr. Chapin--

           MRS. FORD

                          (RE: ELIZA)
           This one's cryin'. Why is this
           one cryin'?

                          FORD
           Separated from her children.

           MRS. FORD
           Oh, dear.

                          FORD
           It couldn't be helped.

           MRS. FORD
           Poor, poor woman.

                          FORD
           Mr. Chapin, tomorrow you will take
           these two up to the mill and start
           them workin'. For now make them

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          42.

                         60 CONTINUED: (2) 60

                          FORD (CONT'D)
           adequate; fix them a meal, and
           have them rest themselves.

                          CHAPIN
           Yes, sir.
           (to the slaves:)
           C'mon, now. C'mon. Don't dawdle.

           MRS. FORD

                          (TO ELIZA:)
           Something to eat and some rest;
           your children will soon enough be
           forgotten.

                         

          A61A A61A 

           EXT. FORD'S WORK AREA - DAY

           John Tibeats, stands before the slaves. Chapin hovers to 
           one side. 

                          TIBEATS 
           My name is John Tibeats, William 
           Ford's chief carpenter. You will 
           refer to me as Master. 
           Tibeats nods in Chapin's direction: 

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D) 
           Mister Chapin is the overseer on 
           this plantation. He is 
           responsible for all of Ford's 
           property. You too will refer to 
           him as Master. 
           This plantation covers many 
           hundreds of acres, and you will 
           traverse the Texas road between 
           the forest site and the sawmill in 
           double time. Any clever nigger on 
           that path that gets a little 
           lightfooted, I will remind him 
           that on one side men and 
           bloodhounds patrol the border and 
           on the other the bayou provides a 
           hard living, with alligators and 
           little to eat or drink that won't 
           kill you. No slave has escaped 
           here with his life. You're here 
           to work niggers, so let's 
           commence. 
           Tibeats begins to sing the song "Run Nigger, Run" 
           mockingly. 
           We cut to Solomon chopping logs and into the montage of 
           the slaves doing manual labor and arriving back to the 
           sawmill. 
           Lyrics for "Run Nigger, Run" 

                          (CONTINUED)

          42A.

          A61A CONTINUED: A61A
           Oh run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Nigger run nigger flew 
           Nigger tore his shirt in two 
           Run run the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Nigger run, run so fast 
           Stoved his head in a hornets nest 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Nigger run through the field 
           Black slick coal and barley heel 
           Run nigger run the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Some folks say a nigger won't steal 
           I caught three in my corn field 
           One has a bushel? And one has a peck 
           One had a rope and it was hung around his neck 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Oh nigger run and nigger flew 
           Why in the devil can't a white man chew 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Hey Mr. Pattyroller don't catch me 
           Catch that nigger behind that tree 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you? 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 
           Nigger run, run so fast 
           Stoved his head in a hornets nest 
           Run nigger run well the pattyroller will get you 
           Run nigger run well you better get away 

                         

          61 EXT. WOODS - DAY 61


           -END OF MAY THROUGH EARLY JUNE, 1841-
           We are in a wooded area. There is A GANG OF SLAVES
           chopping trees into timber. It is hard, laborious work
           made no more easy by the sweltering heat. Solomon is
           among them as well as Sam.

                         

                         62 62

           EXT. WOODS - LATER

           The slaves now load the timber onto a horse drawn wagon.
           Again, hard work done under the ever present sun.

          42B.

                         

                         

          63 EXT. ROAD - LATER 63

           As Sam drives the wagon, the other slaves trudge along
           side by foot. We should get the sense the travel is long
           and tedious.

                         

          64 EXT. FORD'S WORK AREA - LATER 64

           It is a sizable work area on the edge of Indian Creek.
           There is much work being done, the slaves primarily
           employed in piling the timber and chopping it into
           lumber. As before, there is little doubt about the
           rigors of the job at hand.
           Working as a carpenter at the work area is JOHN TIBEATS.
           There are also various CUSTOMERS who move about placing
           orders.

                         

                         65 65

           EXT. FORD PLANTATION - DAY


           -EARLY TO MID JUNE, 1841-
           It's Sunday morning. All of Ford's slaves are dressed
           with their "finest" clothes - brightly colored and as
           free as possible of defect. The slaves are gathered on

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          43.

                         65 CONTINUED: 65
           the lawn just beyond the piazza. Mistress Ford is
           present as well. As the slaves listen, Ford reads to
           them Scripture. His tone is of a man trying to preach by
           way of compassion.

                          FORD
           "But as touching the resurrection
           of the dead, have ye not read that
           which was spoken unto you by God,
           saying, I am the God of Abraham,
           and the God of Isaac, and the God
           of Jacob. God is not the God of
           the dead, but of the living. And
           when the multitude heard this,
           they were astonished at his
           doctrine. Then one of them, which
           was a lawyer, asked him a
           question, tempting him, and
           saying, Master, which is the
           great commandment in the law?
           Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt
           love the Lord thy God with all thy
           heart, and with all thy soul, and
           with all thy mind. This is the
           first and great commandment. And
           the second is like unto it, thou
           shalt love thy neighbor as
           thyself. On these two
           commandments hang all the law and
           the prophets."
           Despite the lightness with which Ford speaks and the hope
           in his words, ELIZA SITS OFF TO THE SIDE - SELF-SECLUDED

           A BIT - WEEPING GENTLY.
           We should be able to see in Mistress Ford's eyes that
           Eliza's constant crying is unsettling.

                         

                         66 66

                          OMITTED

                         

                         67 OMIT 67

                         

                         68 OMITTED 68

          44.

                         

                         

                         69 OMIT 69

                         

          70 EXT. FORD'S WORK AREA - DAY 70


           -MID JUNE, 1841-
           The slaves have broken for lunch. They snack on smoked
           meat and drink water from gourds. As they lunch Solomon
           reads from Sam's Bible to the other slaves.

                          SOLOMON
           But he that is greatest among you,
           let him be as the younger; and he
           that is chief, as he that doth
           serve. For whether is greater, he
           that sitteth at meat, or he that
           serveth? Is not he that sitteth
           at meat? But I am among you as he
           that serveth.
           A white customer - WINSLOW - irate at the sight and sound
           of slaves reading Scripture, crosses over. He grabs the
           Bible.

                          WINSLOW
           From where did you thieve this?

                          SAM
           Suh, the book is my property.
           The White Customer has no interest in Sam's answer. With
           flailing hands he STARTS BEATING ON SAM. Solomon tries
           to stop him. That only makes the situation worse,
           Solomon now the target of the man's ire.

                          WINSLOW
           Take your hands from me!
           Ford comes running over.

                          FORD
           What is the commotion?

                          WINSLOW
           Your niggers are either brazen or
           rebellious. This one was readin'
           Scripture, and this one claims it
           to be his.

                          FORD
           It is. A gift from his Mistress.

                          WINSLOW
           You condone this?

                          FORD
           I encourage it. As a Christian I
           can do no less.

                          (CONTINUED)

          45.

                         70 CONTINUED: 70

                          WINSLOW
           You can do no worse, Ford. A
           slave that reads is dangerous.
           Winslow moves off. He yells back at Ford:

                          WINSLOW (CONT'D)
           And the man who would allow a
           slave to read is unfit to own
           niggers!
           Handing the Bible back to Sam, very matter of factly:

                          FORD
           Pay him no mind. The word of God
           applies to all. In that you may
           take comfort.

                         

                         71 71

                          OMITTED

                         

          72 EXT. ROAD - DAY 72

           Sam is at the reigns of the wagon carrying the timber to
           Ford's WORK AREA. Slaves trudge alongside, same as it
           ever was. Only...it's not quite the same. Sam brings
           the wagon to a halt. He, and the slaves look up the road
           ahead of them.
           Standing in the middle of the road is a group of
           CHICKASAWS INDIANS. They are in their "usual" dress of
           buckskin breeches and calico hunting shirts of fantastic
           colors, buttoned from belt to chin. They have with them
           DOGS and HORSES. They carry with them the carcass of a
           deer.
           The two groups stare at each other for a long moment.

                         

                         73 73

           EXT. FIELD - DUSK/END OF DAY

           The groups of slaves and Chickasaws are now intermingled.
           They "break bread" - actually they work on the carcass of
           the deer which is now roasting over a large fire. As
           well the group share a smoke on a pipe.
           One of the Chickasaws is playing a tune on an "INDIAN
           FIDDLE." The Chickasaws perform a customary dance;
           trotting after each other, and giving utterance to a
           guttural, sing-song noise.
           The slaves enjoy the respite from work, Solomon
           particularly taken by the music...if not entirely
           enthralled by it.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          46.

                         73 CONTINUED: 73
           After a bit, Solomon rights himself and heads from the
           group.

                         

          74 EXT. RIVER BANK - CONTINUOUS 74

           Solomon arrives to some tall grass at the edge of the
           river. Lowering his trousers, SOLOMON SQUATS TO
           DEFECATE. As he does, he stares out toward the flowing
           waters of Indian Creek. After a few moments, as though a
           thought far greater than relieving himself has come to
           him, Solomon stands and replaces his pants.
           Oddly, Solomon stares out at the water as though he were
           a man possessed.

                         

                         75 75

           EXT. FORD'S WORK AREA - DAY

           Just beyond the WORK AREA Solomon speaks with Ford as
           Tibeats listens. Solomon is drawing in the dirt, making
           rough diagrams for Ford as he explains himself.

                          SOLOMON
           The creek is plenty deep enough to
           sail, even with a boat full of
           load. The distance from the WORK
           AREA to the point on the latter
           bayou is several miles by water
           fewer than land. It occurs to me
           that the expense of the
           transportation would be materially

                          DIMINISHED--

                          TIBEATS
           "Materially diminished?"

                          SOLOMON
           If we use the waterway.

                          TIBEATS
           It's a scheme. Plenty of
           engineers have schemed similarly.
           The passes are too tight.

                          SOLOMON
           I reckon them at more than twelve
           feet at their most narrow. Wide
           enough for a tub to traverse. A
           team of niggers can clear it out.

                          TIBEATS
           And you know what of transport and
           terra formin'?

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          47.

                         75 CONTINUED: 75

                          SOLOMON
           I labored repairing the Champlain
           canal, on the section over which
           William Van Nortwick was
           superintendent. With my earnings
           I hired several efficient hands to
           assist me, and I entered into
           contracts for the transportation
           of large rafts of timber from Lake
           Champlain to Troy.

                          FORD

                          (TO TIBEATS)
           I'll admit to being impressed even
           if you won't.

                          (TO SOLOMON)
           Collect a gang, see what good you
           can do.

                         

                         76 76

           EXT. CREEK - DAY


           -END OF JUNE, 1841-
           WE HAVE A SERIES OF SCENES in which we see Solomon and a
           TEAM OF BLACKS working on the creek: CHOPPING TREES
           ALONG THE BANKS, widening out the shore... It's all just
           a trial for now. The work is diligent, but it is basic
           to this point. Still, under Solomon's direction, the
           slaves go at it like they've got something to prove. And
           rightly they do.
           Solomon also works on a narrow raft of twelve cribs with
           which he will transport the timber.
           Once this is constructed, HE PERSONALLY "SAILS" THEM UP

           THE CREEK WITH A TEST LOAD.

                         

                         77 77

           EXT. FORD'S WORK AREA - LATER

           Ford and a group of slaves wait along the river banks
           just beyond the WORK AREA. All are expectant in their
           manner. A long moment passes with no sign of Solomon.
           Then, from up river, we see Solomon's raft of lumber
           winding its way. SLAVES CHEER, and Ford literally
           applauds the effort. Tibeats looks pissed. He has just
           been shown up after all.

                         

                         78 78

           EXT. FORD PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - DAY

           As we come into the scene, Ford is presenting Solomon
           with a fiddle. Not as grand as the one he previously
           owned in New York, but a fine instrument none the less.
           It is a gift of thanks for his hard work. Solomon's
           gratitude is easily expressed.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          48.

                         78 CONTINUED: 78

                          SOLOMON
           My great thanks, Master Ford.

                          FORD
           My thanks to you, and it is the
           least of it. My hope is that it
           brings us both much joy over the
           years.
           Following the statement, Solomon's not sure how to react.
           He remains grateful, but the thought of "over the years"
           is just a reminder of the altered state in which he now
           finds himself.

                         

                         79 79

           EXT. FORD PLANATION/SLAVE SHACK - EVENING


           -END OF JULY, 1841-
           The slaves eat. All tired from a days work they conduct
           themselves in silence. All except for Eliza who,
           SLIPPING INTO PERMANENT DEPRESSION, as always weeps. The
           sound of her sobbing edging him up - particularly after
           Master Ford's "over the years" observation. Solomon

                          FINALLY SNAPS:

                          SOLOMON
           Eliza. Eliza, stop!
           Solomon goes to her, grabs Eliza. She does not stop. As
           if to force the misery from her, Solomon SHAKES ELIZA

           VIOLENTLY.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Stop it! Stop!

                          ELIZA
           It's all I have to keeps my loss
           present.

                          SOLOMON
           You let yourself be overcome by
           sorrow. You will drown in it.

                          ELIZA
           Have you stopped crying for your
           children? You make no sounds, but
           will you ever let them go in your
           heart?

                          SOLOMON
           ...They are as my flesh...

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          49.

                         79 CONTINUED: 79

                          ELIZA
           Then who is distressed? Do I
           upset the Mistress and the Master?
           Do you care less for my loss than
           their well being?

                          SOLOMON
           Master Ford is a decent man.

                          ELIZA
           He is a slaver.

                          SOLOMON
           Under the circumstances--

                          ELIZA
           Under the circumstances he is a
           slaver! Christian only in his
           proclamations. Separated me from
           my precious babies for lack of a
           few dollars. But you truckle at

                          HIS BOOT--

                          SOLOMON
           No...

                          ELIZA
           You luxuriate in his favor.

                          SOLOMON
           I survive. I will not fall into
           despair. Woeful and crushed;
           melancholy is the yolk I see most.
           I will offer up my talents to
           Master Ford. I will keep myself
           hearty until freedom is opportune.

                          ELIZA
           Ford is your opportunity. Do you
           think he does not know that you
           are more than you suggest? But he
           does nothing for you. Nothing.
           You are no better than prized
           livestock. Call for him. Call,
           tell him of your previous
           circumstances and see what it
           earns you...Solomon.
           Eliza uses Solomon's name quite pointedly as if to
           underscore his true self. Solomon get her meaning. Yet
           he says nothing. Again, pointedly:

                          ELIZA (CONT'D)
           So, you've settled into your role
           as Platt, then?

                          SOLOMON

                          (DEFENSIVE)
           My back is thick with scars from

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          50.

                         79 CONTINUED: (2) 79

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           protesting my freedom. Do not

                          ACCUSE ME--

                          ELIZA
           I accuse you of nothing. I cannot
           accuse. I too have done so many,
           many dishonorable things to
           survive. And for all of them I
           have ended up here... No better
           than if I had stood up for myself.
           Father, Lord and Savior forgive
           me... Forgive me. Oh, Solomon,
           let me weep for my children.

           FORD (V.O.)
           At the same time came the
           disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who
           is the greatest in the kingdom of
           heaven?

                         

                         80 80

           EXT. FORD PLANTATION - MORNING


           -AUGUST, 1841-
           It's Sunday. The slaves are again gathered in the rose
           garden near the front of the house to hear the word of
           the Lord as read by Master Ford.

                          FORD
           And Jesus called a little child
           unto him, and set him in the midst
           of them, And said, Verily I say
           unto you, Except ye be converted,
           and become as little children, ye
           shall not enter into the kingdom
           of heaven.
           The phrase seems to trigger Eliza's tears. She begins to
           sob uncontrollably.
           Mrs. Ford turns to Rachel in a hushed whisper-

           MRS. FORD
           I cannot have that kind of
           depression about.
           Solomon, pretending not to have heard, slowly turns to
           Eliza with worry.
           Ford continues to preach over Eliza's keening.

                          FORD
           But whoso shall offend one of
           these little ones which believe in
           me, it were better for him that a
           millstone were hanged about his
           neck, and that he were drowned in
           the depth of the sea. Woe unto

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          50A.

                         80 CONTINUED: 80

                          FORD (CONT'D)
           the world because of offences!
           For it must needs be that offences
           come; but woe to that man by whom
           the offence cometh!

                          BLACK

          51.

                         

                         

          81 EXT. FORD PLANTATION - DAY 81


           -JANUARY, 1842-
           Seasons have passed. It is winter now, and very grey out
           along the bayou. Ford and Tibeats - who we have seen
           working around the WORK AREA - stand with Solomon,
           Tibeats giving Solomon an inspection. Ford carries much
           lament.

                          TIBEATS
           Raise yer shirt.
           Solomon does as instructed. Tibeats looks at Solomon's
           back, at the scars from lashings he bears.

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D)
           Troublesome.

                          FORD
           He's a good carpenter and quick-
           witted.

                          TIBEATS
           I am familiar with his cleverness.

                          FORD
           You won't find a nigger more
           humble.

                          TIBEATS
           Ain't found a nigger yet I cain't
           humble.
           Tibeats heads off. Solomon, highly curious over the
           preceding.

                          SOLOMON
           Sir, have I done something wrong?

                          FORD
           Not your concern, Platt. I say
           with much...shame I have compiled
           debts. I have long preached
           austerity, but find myself
           hypocritical in that regard.
           You'll be in the ownership of Mr.
           Tibeats. You are his now. Serve
           him as you'd serve me.

                          SOLOMON
           Sir.

                          FORD
           And your faithfulness will not be
           forgotten.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          52.

                         81 CONTINUED: 81

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, sir.

                          FORD
           Pride and want have been my sin.
           Loss of you is but one of my
           punishments.

                         

                         82 82

           EXT. FORD PLANATION - DAY


           -END OF JANUARY, 1842- [OVER ONE DAY]
           We see Solomon working as a carpenter, helping to erect a
           Weaving House that stands off to the side of the
           plantation's Great House.
           At the moment Solomon is nailing on siding. Tibeats
           arrives and is immediately dissatisfied with the work.

                          TIBEATS
           Make them boards flush.

                          SOLOMON
           They are, sir.

                          TIBEATS
           They is no such thing.
           Solomon runs his hands over the boards.

                          SOLOMON
           As smooth to the touch as a
           yearling's coat.

                          TIBEATS
           Callin' me a liar, boy?

                          SOLOMON
           Only a matter of perspective, sir.
           From where you stand you may see
           differently. But the hands are
           not mistaken. I ask only that you
           employ all your senses before
           rendering judgement.
           What's Tibeats to do when faced with fact? All he can do
           is spew invectives.

                          TIBEATS
           You are a brute. You are a dog,
           and no better for followin'
           instruction.

                          SOLOMON
           I'll do as ordered, sir.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          53.

                         82 CONTINUED: 82

                          TIBEATS
           Then you'll be up at daybreak.
           You will procure a keg of nails
           from Chapin and commence puttin'
           on clapboards.
           Tibeats wheels away. Solomon goes back to his work.
           After a few moments Solomon notices a bit of commotion in
           the drive of the great house. It involves an
           inconsolable Eliza who is being herded by Sam onto a cart
           DRIVEN BY A WHITE MAN. Mistress Ford and Rachel watch.
           Solomon can only watch as the last connection to his days
           as a free man is driven away to a location unknown.

                         

                         83 83

           EXT. WEAVING HOUSE - MORNING

           It is day break. As ordered, Solomon is up and working.
           Chapin is rolling a keg of nails off a handcart for
           Solomon.

                          CHAPIN
           If Tibeats prefers a different
           size, I will endeavor to furnish
           them, but you may use those until
           further directed.

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, sir.

                         

                         84 84

           EXT. WEAVING HOUSE - LATER

           As the day gets on to mid-morning, the sun already baking
           in the sky, Tibeats makes his way over to Solomon. Even
           before arriving to Solomon his mien is one of
           belligerence; out of sorts and something less than sober.

                          TIBEATS
           I thought I told yah ta commence
           ta puttin' on clapboards this
           morn'.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          54.

                         84 CONTINUED: 84

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, master. I am about it. I
           have begun on the other side of
           the house.
           Tibeats walks around to look over Solomon's work. He is
           picayune, as if purposefully looking for fault.

                          TIBEATS
           Didn't I tell yah last night to
           get a keg of nails of Chapin?

                          SOLOMON
           And so I did; and Chapin said he
           would get another size for you, if
           you wanted them when he came back
           from the field.
           Tibeats walks to the keg and kicks it. Moving toward
           Solomon "with a great passion:"

                          TIBEATS
           Goddamn yah! I thought yah knowed
           somethin'!
           Solomon, perhaps inspired by his moment with Eliza, is in
           no mood for Tibeats.

                          SOLOMON
           I did as instructed. If there's
           something wrong, then its wrong
           with your instructions.

                          TIBEATS
           Yah black bastard! Yah goddman
           black bastard!
           In an inconsolable rage, Tibeats runs off to the piazza
           to fetch a whip.
           Solomon looks around. He is alone other than Rachel and
           Mistress Ford who, shocked by that which she witnesses,
           runs out to the field to fetch Chapin. Solomon's
           instinct is to run, but he stands his ground as Tibeats
           marches back whip in hand.

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D)
           Strip yer clothes!
           Solomon does no such thing.

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D)
           Strip!

                          SOLOMON
           I will not.
           With "concentrated vengeance," Tibeats springs for
           Solomon, seizing him by the throat with one hand and

                          (CONTINUED)

          55.

                         84 CONTINUED: (2) 84
           raising the whip with the other. Before he can strike
           the blow, however, Solomon catches Tibeats by the collar
           of his coat and pulls him in close. Reaching down,
           Solomon grabs Tibeats by the ankle and pushes him back
           with the other hand. Tibeats tumbles to the ground. A
           violent struggle takes place as Solomon puts a foot to
           Tibeats throat, and then in a frenzy of madness snatches
           the whip from Tibeats and begins to strike him with the
           handle again and again and again.

                          TIBEATS
           Yew will not live ta see another
           day, nigger! This is yer last, I
           swear it!
           Solomon ignores the threats, continues to beat Tibeats.
           Blow after blow falling fast and heavy on Tibeats's
           wriggling form. The stiff stock of the whip wraps around
           Tibeats's cringing body until Solomon's arm aches.
           Tibeats's cries of vengeance turn to yelps for help and
           then pleas for mercy:

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D)
           Murder! It's murder! Lord, God,
           help me. God be merciful!
           And then suddenly, Tibeats shrieks-

                          TIBEATS (CONT'D)
           Papa I'm sorry!
           Chapin comes RIDING IN FROM THE FIELD fast and hard.
           Solomon strikes Tibeats a blow or two more, then delivers
           a well-directed kick that sends Tibeats rolling over the
           ground.

                          CHAPIN
           What is the matter?
           Tibeats struggles up and tries to present an air of
           dignity and control while he keeps a demonic eye on

                          SOLOMON:

                          SOLOMON
           Master Tibeats wants to whip me
           for using the nails you gave me.

                          CHAPIN
           What's the matter with the nails?
           With a mix of shame, anger and embarrassment, Tibeats
           says, as if being exposed-

                          TIBEATS
           They're...they're too large.

                          CHAPIN
           I am overseer here. I told Platt
           to use them, and

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          56.

                         84 CONTINUED: (3) 84

                          CHAPIN (CONT'D)
           I shall furnish such nails as I
           please. Do you understand that,
           Mr. Tibeats?
           Tibeats answer is in the grinding of his teeth and the
           shaking of his fist.

                          TIBEATS
           This ain't done by half. I will
           have flesh, and I will have all of
           it.
           Tibeats moves off toward, and then INTO THE HOUSE.
           Chapin follows. A long moment, Solomon stands alone. He
           looks around, not sure what to do; to stay or to flee.
           Anxiety mounts on his features.
           A moment more, and Tibeats EXITS the house. He saddles
           his horse and rides off to beat the devil. Or, worse, to
           fetch him.
           Chapin comes running back out of the house. He is
           visibly excited, and when he speaks he is quite earnest.
           Though he tries to project reasoned emotions he gives off
           an air of impending trouble.

                          CHAPIN
           Do not stir. Do not attempt to
           leave the plantation on any
           account whatever. But if you run
           there is no protecting you.

                          SOLOMON

                          SIR--

                          CHAPIN
           If you run, Platt, there is no
           protecting you. Rachel...!
           Chapin runs off to join Rachel. The two converse at a
           distance from Solomon, then they head off for the log
           kitchen.
           Solomon is now very much alone, and he waits for what is
           to come. AND WE WAIT WITH HIM. And we wait, and we
           continue to wait... Moment by moment, the dread of the
           unexpected mounts.
           Solomon's eyes begin to well. He has beaten a white man,
           and he knows that death awaits him.

           A SLIGHT PRAYER TO THE HEAVENS BEGINS TO FORM IN HIS
           THROAT, but he is too choked up to fully speak it.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          57.

                         84 CONTINUED: (4) 84
           Chapin has now returned to the piazza. He stands and
           watches, but does not move to Solomon.
           Solomon waits, and waits...
           WE HEAR THE SOUND OF DISTANT HOOFS which grow louder and
           louder in the manner of rolling thunder. It's Tibeats.
           He returns with two accomplices; RAMSAY and COOK. They
           carry with them large whips and a coil of rope.

                          TIBEATS
           Tha's the one. Tha's him.
           Dismounting, they move with menace that is tinged with
           perverse pleasure and wordless malevolence. Solomon
           tries to fight back, but he is strong armed and tied by
           TIBEATS - his wrists, and then ankles bound in the same
           manner. In the meantime the other two have slipped a
           cord within Solomon's elbows, running it across his back
           and tying it firmly. Solomon is then dragged toward a
           peach tree. A lynching is in store. The naked horror of
           it intensely palpable.
           Solomon looks toward the piazza, but Chapin is now gone.
           Tears of fear flow down Solomon's cheeks. He is on the
           verge of panic; a man heading toward his own execution,
           he begins to struggle and fight.
           A rope goes around Solomon's neck, then is tossed over
           the branch of the tree. The trio begin to hoist Solomon.
           He gasps and gags as spittle flies from his mouth and the
           life is choked from him.
           With suddenness, Chapin comes from the house brandishing
           a pistol in each hand - Colt Paterson .36 caliber
           "Holster" pistols with 9" barrels. Chapin moves with
           determination toward the lynch mob. He is sharp and
           matter of fact. With the guns in hand, he really doesn't
           need to be much more demonstrative.

                          CHAPIN
           Gentlemen... Whoever moves that
           nigger another foot from where he
           stands is a dead man. I am
           overseer of this plantation seven
           years, and in the absence of
           William Ford, my duty is to
           protect his interests. Ford holds
           a mortgage on Platt of four
           hundred dollars. If you hang him,
           he loses his debt. Until that is
           canceled you have no claim to his
           life.
           Directing his attention to Ramsay and Cook:

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          58.

                         84 CONTINUED: (5) 84

                          CHAPIN (CONT'D)
           As for you two, if you have any
           regard for your own safety...I
           say, begone!
           Ramsay and Cook don't need to be told twice. The pistols
           Chapin's gripping make the situation real clear. Without
           further word, they mount their horses and ride away.
           Tibeats remains, and his anger with him.

                          TIBEATS
           Yah got no cause. Platt is mine,
           and mine ta do with as I please.
           Yah touch my property, I will 'ave
           yah strung up as well.
           Tibeats mounts up and departs. There is a surreal moment
           as Chapin's not sure what to do about Solomon. He
           chooses to do nothing. Solomon is left dangling by the
           neck from the tree as Chapin calls to Sam in the

                          DISTANCE:

                          CHAPIN
           Sam! Get the mule. You must ride
           to Master Ford. Tell him to come
           here at once without a single
           moment's delay. Tell him they are
           trying to murder Platt. Hurry,
           boy. Bring him back if you must
           kill the mule to do so!

                          SAM
           Yes, suh!
           Sam mounts up and rides off, the mule demonstrating much
           speed.

                         

                         85 85

           EXT. FORD PLANATION - LATER

           HOURS HAVE PASSED. The sun is now at its apex. The sight
           and smell of the red rose bush is more than vivid as
           Solomon remains tied and dangling exactly where he was
           left. The scene is both tranquil and horrific. Life on
           the plantation continues. The OTHER SLAVES work in the
           field. CHILDREN make their way playfully in the yard.
           It should all underscore the fact that a black, hanging
           even partially from a tree, is nothing unusual in this
           time and space.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          59.

                         85 CONTINUED: 85
           Chapin walks back and forth with the pistols in his
           hands. Clearly he fears Tibeats returning with more and
           better assistance. And yet, he does nothing to alleviate
           Solomon's suffering. He heeds Tibeats words, and as
           though caught up in the middle of nothing more than a
           property dispute, he offers no further aid.
           Solomon's head lolls to one side. He looks toward the
           sun. The bright light flares off the leaves and branches
           of the tree from which Solomon hangs. The glare in
           Solomon's eyes offering him more pain than solace, but he
           cannot help but look upward. As he does, his eyes
           flutter between life and lifelessness...

                         

                         86 86

                          OMIT

                         

          87 EXT. FORD PLANATION - LATER 87

           Solomon continues to hang. By now he is drenched in
           sweat, and nearly delirious with dehydration. His lips
           dry and parched. He may not die from hanging, but he may
           very well expire before the day is over.
           Eventually Rachel comes over - timidly, and as though she
           were acting contrary to orders - and offers a drink of
           water from a tin cup, pouring it in Solomon's mouth for
           him. She then takes a small hand towel and dabs at the
           water which clings to his lips. Rachel then retreats,
           and leaves Solomon to hang.

                         

                         88 88

           EXT. FORD PLANATION - EVENING

           The sun is just now arching for the horizon. Solomon
           remains, as though his torture will not end. Ford,
           trailed by Sam, finally comes riding up. He dismounts,
           and moves swiftly over to Solomon. With great heartache:

                          FORD
           Platt... My poor Platt.
           Ford produces a blade and cuts Solomon loose. Solomon
           attempts to carry himself, but he cannot. He falls to
           the ground and passes out.

                         

                         89 89

           INT. FORD PLANATION/GREAT HOUSE - NIGHT

           As we come into the scene, Solomon lays on a blanket on
           the floor. Eventually, his eyes flutter, then open. He
           is in the foyer of the Ford house. As he gets his
           bearings, he looks around the interior. THE SPACE IS
           HANDSOME, AND WELL DECORATED. It is sharp contrast to
           the bleak surroundings, shacks and dungeons Solomon has
           largely been accustom to during his time of slavery. It
           will be the "first and last time such a sumptuous resting
           place was granted" during his twelve years of bondage.

                          (CONTINUED)

          60.

                         89 CONTINUED: 89
           Solomon doesn't have much chance to luxuriate in his
           surroundings. He hears a DOG BARKING just outside, and
           is unnerved. Has Tibeats returned to finish what he
           started?
           From a study, Master Ford appears with a gun in hand. He
           goes to the door, opens it and looks outside. He can see
           nothing. Satisfied, Ford crosses back over to Solomon.
           He is frank with Solomon regarding the situation.

                          FORD
           I believe Tibeats is skulkin'
           about the premises somewhere. He
           wants you dead, and he will
           attempt to have you so. It's no
           longer safe for you here. And I
           don't believe you will remain
           passive if Tibeats attacks. I
           have transferred my debt to Edwin
           Epps. He will take charge of you.

                          SOLOMON
           (desperate, urgent)
           Master Ford, you must know; I am
           not a slave.

                          FORD
           I cannot hear that.

                          SOLOMON
           Before I came to you I was a
           freeman.

                          FORD
           I am trying to save your life!
           And...I have a debt to be mindful
           of. That, now, is to Edwin Epps.
           He is a hard man. Prides himself
           on being a "nigger breaker." But
           truthfully I could find no others
           who would have you. You've made a
           reputation of yourself. Whatever
           your circumstances, you are an
           exceptional nigger, Platt. I fear
           no good will come of it.

                         

                         90 90

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/BACK PORCH - DAY


           -END OF JANUARY, 1842-
           From the back porch, we come into the scene on EDWIN
           EPPS; a repulsive and coarse man. His language gives
           speedy and unequivocal evidence that he has never enjoyed
           the advantages of an education.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          61.

                         90 CONTINUED: 90
           Epps reads the Bible to his slaves, eight of them
           altogether. ABRAM; a tall, older slave of about sixty
           years. WILEY, who is forty eight. PHEBE, who is married
           to Wiley. BOB and HENRY who are Phebe's children, EDWARD
           and PATSEY. Patsey is young, just 23 years old...though
           in the era, 23 not as young as in the present day. She
           is the offspring of a "Guinea nigger," brought over to
           Cuba in a slave ship. She nearly brims with unconversant
           sexuality.
           MISTRESS EPPS, Epps's wife, is also present. She sits
           with, holds quite lovingly, some SLAVE CHILDREN. WITH
           THEM SHE IS VERY "MOTHERLY." We also see Epps's overseer
           TREACH. Treach constantly sports a LOADED PISTOL.
           Though Epps reads the word of the Lord, he lacks the tone
           of compassion with which Ford read.

                          EPPS
           "And that servant which knew his
           Lord's will...WHICH KNEW HIS
           LORD'S WILL and prepared not
           himself...PREPARED NOT HIMSELF,
           neither did according to his will,
           shall be beaten with many
           stripes..." D'ye hear that?
           "Stripes." That nigger that don't
           take care, that don't obey his
           lord - that's his master - d'ye
           see? - that 'ere nigger shall be
           beaten with many stripes. Now,
           "many" signifies a great many.
           Forty, a hundred, a hundred and
           fifty lashes... That's Scripter!

                         

                         91 91

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY


           -AUGUST, 1842-

           WE START THE SCENE WITH A PAIR OF BLACK HANDS
           picking cotton ferociously. As we move out, we identify
           PATSEY, a 23 year old striking black woman. The camera
           moves out again to a wider shot. This reveals several
           lines of slaves picking cotton, with Patsey way out in
           the lead. 
           We cut to another pair of black hands. This time,
           revealing SOLOMON, clumsy and unskilled hands, picking
           cotton. A lash bears down on him.
           It is August, "cotton picking" season.
           We are looking out over a cotton field in full bloom. It
           presents a visual purity, like an immaculate expanse of
           light, new-fallen snow. The cotton grows from five to
           seven feet high, each stalk having a great many branches

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          62.

                         91 CONTINUED: 91
           shooting out in all directions and lapping each other
           above the water furrow.
           There is a slave to each side of the row. They have a
           sack around their necks that hangs to the ground, the
           mouth of the sack about breast high. Baskets are placed
           at the end of the furrows. Slaves dump their sacks of
           cotton in the baskets, then pick until their sacks are
           again filled.

                          EDWARDS
           Pick that cotton. Move along now.

           THE SOUNDTRACK TO THE SCENE IS NOTHING MORE THAN THE

           RUSTLE OF LABOR, THE MALE CICADAS BUGS "TYMBALS" IN THE
           HEAT and a SPIRITUAL SUNG BY THE SLAVES.
           Despite the heat, there is no stopping for water. The
           slaves are "driven" by Edward, who is himself "driven" by
           Treach.

                          TREACH
           C'mon. Drive dem niggers.
           Edward moves among the slaves, applying the whip to them
           without regard.

                          EDWARD
           Pick dat cotton. Move along now,
           hear?

                         

                         92 92

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GIN HOUSE - EVENING

           The day's work is done. The slaves are now assembled in
           the gin house with their baskets of cotton which are
           being weighed by Treach. There is anxiety among the
           slave, the reason for which soon becomes apparent.

                          TREACH
           Two hundred forty pounds for Bob.

                          EPPS
           What yah got for James?

                          TREACH
           Two hundred ninety five pounds.

                          EPPS
           Tha's real good, boy. Tha's real
           good.

                          TREACH
           One hundred eighty two pounds for
           Platt.
           Epps does not look happy. Treach says again:

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          63.

                         92 CONTINUED: 92

                          TREACH (CONT'D)
           One hundred eighty two.

                          EPPS
           How much can even an average
           nigger pick a day?

                          TREACH
           Two hundred pounds.

                          EPPS
           This nigger ain't even average.
           Epps pulls Solomon aside.

                          TREACH
           Five hundred twelve pounds for
           Patsey.

                          EPPS
           Five hundred twelve. Yah men folk
           got no shame lettin' Patsey out
           pick yah? The day ain't yet come
           she swung lower than five hundred
           pounds. Queen of the fields, she
           is.

                          TREACH
           Two hundred six pou--

                          EPPS
           I ain't done, Treach. Ain't I
           owed a minute to luxuriate on the
           work Patsey done?

                          TREACH
           ...Sir...

                          EPPS
           Damned Queen. Born and bred to
           the field. A nigger among
           niggers, and God give 'er to me.
           A lesson in the rewards of
           righteous livin'. All be
           observant ta that. All!

                          (BEAT)
           Now, Treach. Now speak.

                          TREACH
           One hundred thirty eight pounds
           for Phebe.

                          EPPS
           Hit one forty five yesterday.
           Pull her out.

                          TREACH
           Two hundred six pounds for Wiley.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          64.

                         92 CONTINUED: (2) 92

                          EPPS
           How much he pick yesterday?

                          TREACH
           Two hundred twenty nine pounds.
           Wiley is pulled from the line, huddled with Solomon.

                         

                         93 93

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/YARD - EVENING

           In the distance, a flogging is going on. Solomon, Phebe,
           and Wiley are stripped, placed in a stockade and now
           being given a perfunctory whipping delivered by ANOTHER

           IDENTIFIED SLAVE.

                         

                         94 94

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION - EVENING

           Evening, but the day is not yet done. Slaves attend
           their various evening chores; feeding livestock, doing
           laundry, cooking food. There is no respite from a
           slave's charge.

                         

                         95 95

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           A fire is kindled in the cabin. The slaves finally fix
           their own dinner of corn meal. Corn is ground in a small
           hand mill. The corn meal is mixed with a little water,
           placed in the fire and baked. When it is "done brown"
           the ashes are scraped off. Bacon is fried. As the
           slaves eat, Abram goes on in great length and with much
           emotion about General Jackson.

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           Hold my words: General Jackson
           will forever be immortalized. His
           bravery will be handed down to the
           last posterity. If ever there be
           a stain upon "raw militia," he
           done wiped away on the eight of
           January. I say da result a that
           day's battle is of 'mo importance
           to our grand nation than any
           occurrence 'fo or since. Great
           man. Great man in deed. We all
           need pray to Heavenly Father da
           General reign over us always.

                         

                         96 96

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           The slaves are sleeping. There is a loud commotion.
           Epps enters, drunkenly, forcing the slaves awake.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          65.

                         96 CONTINUED: 96

                          EPPS
           Get up! Get up, we dance tonight!
           We will not waste the evenin' with
           yer laziness. Get up.

                         

                         97 97

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/MAIN HOUSE - NIGHT

           Despite the lateness of the hour, the slaves are up and
           now fully dressed. They take up position in the middle
           of the floor. They wait, poised like actors. Solomon
           strikes up a tune; Henry joins in with a pan flute and
           the slaves dance. They do so very wearily. The whole of
           it certainly more torture than pleasure.
           Epps, whip in hand:

                          EPPS
           Where's yah merriment? Move yer
           feet.
           As the slaves twirl about Epps keeps an attentive eye on
           Patsey. It should be quite clear that his primary
           motivation for holding dances is so that he may view
           Patsey twirl about the floor.
           This fact is not lost on Mistress Epps. A few moments of
           Epps's lust on display is all that the Mistress can bear.
           Jealousy mounting, she snatches up a CARAFE. With all
           her might she throws it at Patsey. It hits Patsey square
           in the face. TOO THICK TO SHATTER, IT LEAVES HER BLOODY
           AND WRITHING ON THE FLOOR. The dancing, the music stop.
           The slaves, however, react as though it is not the first
           time they've seen as much from the Mistress.
           Mistress Epps, screaming like a hellion:

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Sell her!

                          EPPS
           C'mon, now. Wha's this?

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           You will sell the negress!

                          EPPS
           You're talkin' foolish. Sell
           little Pats? She pick with more
           vigor than any other nigger!
           Choose another ta go.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           No other. Sell her!

                          EPPS
           I will not!

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           66.

                         97 CONTINUED: 97

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           You will remove that black bitch
           from this property, 'er I'll take
           myself back to Cheneyville.

                          EPPS
           Back to that hog's trough where I
           found you? Oh, the idleness of
           that yarn washes over me. Do not
           set yourself up against Patsey, my
           dear. That's a wager on which you
           will not profit. Calm yerself.
           And settle for my affection,
           'cause my affection you got. Or,
           go. 'Cause I will rid myself of
           yah well before I do away with
           her!
           Mistress Epps stands irate, lost in fury and unable to
           even think of what to do. Eventually, optionless, she
           storms away.
           For a few beats there is only the sound of Patsey
           sobbing.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           That damned woman! I won't have
           my mood spoiled. I will not.
           Dance!
           Epps sends the whip in Solomon's direction. Solomon
           responds by playing.
           Treach literally drags the prone Patsey from the floor,
           blood still spilling from her face. The slaves, as
           ordered, return to dancing.

                         

                         98 98

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION - MORNING


           -AUGUST, 1843-
           The sun has only just risen above the horizon. FROM THE
           GREAT HOUSE THE HORN IS BLOWN signaling the start of
           another day.

                         

                         99 99

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY

           Slaves are in the field picking cotton. They accompany
           their work with a SPIRITUAL.

                         

          100 EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - LATER 100

           As the slaves make their way in from the field, the
           Mistress calls to Solomon. SHE HAS A PIECE OF PAPER IN

           HAND.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           67.

                         100 CONTINUED: 100

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Platt...

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, Mistress.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Can you find your way to
           Bartholomew's?

                          SOLOMON
           I can, ma'am.
           Handing Solomon a sheet of paper.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           This is a list of goods and
           sundries. You will take it to be
           filled and return immediately.
           Tell Bartholomew to add it to our
           debt.

                          SOLOMON
           I will, Mistress.
           Solomon looks at the list. In a careless moment, Solomon
           reads quietly from it. He catches himself, but not
           before the Mistress notes his action. With high

                          INQUISITIVENESS:

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Where yah from, Platt?

                          SOLOMON
           I have told you.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Tell me again.

                          SOLOMON
           Washington.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Who were yah Master?

                          SOLOMON
           Master name of Freeman.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Was he a learned man?

                          SOLOMON
           I suppose so.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           He learn yah ta read?

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          68.

                         100 CONTINUED: (2) 100

                          SOLOMON
           A word here or there, but I have
           no understanding of the written
           text.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Don't trouble yer self with it.
           Same as the rest, Master bought
           yah to work. Tha's all. And any
           more'll earn yah a hun'red lashes.
           Having delivered her cool advice, Mistress heads back
           into the house.

                         

                         A101 A101 

           EXT. ROAD - DAY

           Solomon walks along a well-worn path, shopping bag draped 
           over one shoulder. We see his feet. As the walk slowly 
           gathers pace, Solomon suddenly turns left into dense 
           foliage. His tread is now a full blown sprint, trees 
           flash past as Solomon attacks his way through the woods. 
           The sound of branches cracking underneath. His feet, 
           heartbeat and breath almost deafening. He is desperate. 
           The violence of his advance abruptly stops, there is 
           silence. We see in a clearance a posse of patrollers, 
           preparing for a lynching of two young men. Solomon's 
           eyes meet theirs. The two men look back at Solomon with 
           a look of fear as one of the patrollers checks the noose 
           around their neck. Suddenly the bloodhounds start 
           barking and the patrollers turn in the direction of 
           Solomon. Solomon's whole body shakes with anticipation. 

                          PATROLLER 

                          (AGGRESSIVELY) 
           Boy, where are you going? 

                          SOLOMON 
           (almost tripping over 

                          HIS WORDS) 
           To the store, Sir, to 
           Bartholomew's. I was sent there 
           by Mistress Epps. 
           The patroller reaches out for Solomon's free pass around 
           his neck, yanking him forward. He looks at it. 

                          PATROLLER 
           Get there and get there quick. 
           The patroller kicks Solomon hard, sending him on his way. 
           Solomon walks on, looking one more time at the two young 
           men; again there is a moment of connection. 
           Solomon turns. The two men are hoisted up, kicking and 
           spitting, behind his shoulder. 
           Solomon finds himself back on the trail walking towards 
           Bartholomew's, his face now full of shock and 

                          (CONTINUED)

           68A.

          A101 CONTINUED: A101
           trepidation. He walks, fighting to calm himself down. 
           We move behind him as he continues his journey, a lonely 
           figure. 

                         

          101 INT. BARTHOLOMEW'S - LATER 101

           A general store in the township of Holmesville. Solomon
           stands at the counter as BARTHOLOMEW fills Mistress
           Epps's order. Among the items set before Solomon is a

           QUANTITY OF FOOLSCAP.
           The items are collected for Solomon and placed in a sack.
           Solomon giving little thought to them other than getting
           them back to the mistress.
           As he turns, he glimpses the regalia of slave restraints,
           of all different guises; chains, muzzles for sale.

                         

                         102 102

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - LATER

           Solomon returns and delivers the items to the Mistress.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Any trouble?

                          SOLOMON
           No, ma'am. No trouble.

                         

                         103 103

           OMIT - MOVED TO A105

                         

          104 EXT. SHAW'S HOUSE - DAY 104


           -JULY, 1844-
           Sitting on the Grand house's Piazza, Patsey is having tea
           with MISTRESS HARRIET SHAW, WHO IS A BLACK WOMAN. Though
           once a slave, she is now comparatively refined though not
           wholly so. The table where they sit is adorned with
           white linens, and they are attended by a HOUSE NIGGER.
           It makes for a tranquil surreal scene.

           MASTER SHAW, A WHITE MAN, IS ON THE LAWN GROOMING A

           HORSE.

          69.

                         

                         

          A105 EXT. ROAD - DAY A105

           Solomon is running flat out along the road. Running as
           though his life depended on getting to his destination in
           beyond a timely manner.

                         

          B105 EXT. SHAW'S HOUSE - DAY B105

           Still running, slick with sweat, Solomon comes upon the

           SHAW HOUSE.
           As Solomon arrives:

                          MASTER SHAW
           Platt Epps, good Sunday morning.

                          SOLOMON
           Good morning, Master Shaw. I've
           been sent by Master to retrieve
           Patsey. May I approach?

                          MASTER SHAW
           You may.
           Solomon makes his way over to the piazza.

                          SOLOMON
           Excuse me, Mistress Shaw.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           Nigger Platt.

                          SOLOMON
           My apologies. Patsey, Master
           wishes you to return.

                          PATSEY
           Sabbath day. I's free ta roam.

                          SOLOMON
           Understood. But the Master sent
           me running to fetch you, and said
           no time should be wasted.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           Drink tea?

                          SOLOMON
           Thank you, Mistress, but I don't
           dare.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           Would you knowed Massa Epps's
           consternation ta be any lessened
           wit your timely return? Sit. Sit
           and drink the tea that offered.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          70.

          B105 CONTINUED: B105
           Solomon knows better, but he sits and the Mistress has
           tea poured for him.

           MISTRESS SHAW (CONT'D)
           What'n was Epps's concern?

                          SOLOMON
           ...I'd rather not say...

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           L'il gossip on the Sabbath be
           fine. All things in moderation.
           Solomon is not sure what to say. He struggles to be as
           diplomatic as possible.

                          SOLOMON
           As you are aware, Master Epps can
           be a man of a hard countenance.
           There are times when it is
           impossible to account for his
           logic. You know he has ill
           feelings toward your husband.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           He do.

                          SOLOMON
           Master Epps has somehow come to
           believe, as incorrectly as it may
           be, that Master Shaw is... That
           he is something of a lothario and
           an unprincipled man. A misguided
           belief born out of their mutual
           competition as planters, no doubt.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           No doubt...if not born outta truth
           itself.
           The Mistress waves to Shaw. Shaw, unsuspecting of the
           conversation, waves back.

                          SOLOMON
           I'm certain Patsey's well being is
           Master Epps's only concern.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           Nothin' Epps desire come outta
           concern.

                          SOLOMON
           I meant no disrespect.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           He ain't heard you.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          71.

          B105 CONTINUED: (2) B105

                          SOLOMON
           I meant no disrespect to you,
           Mistress.

                          MISTRESS SHAW
           Ha! You worry for me? Got no
           cause to worry for my
           sensibilities. I ain't felt the
           end of a lash in 'mo years than I
           cain recall. Ain't worked a
           field, neither. Where one time I
           served, now I got others servin'
           me. The cost to my current
           existence be Massa Shaw
           broadcasting his affections, 'n me
           enjoyin' his pantomime of
           fidelity. If that what keep me
           from the cotton pickin' niggers,
           that what it be. A small and
           reasonable price to be paid 'fo
           sure.
           Looking toward Patsey, speaking with great empathy:

           MISTRESS SHAW (CONT'D)
           I knowed what it like to be the
           object of Massa's predilections
           and peculiarities. And I knowed
           they can get expressed with
           kindness or wit violence. A lusty
           visit in the night, or a
           visitation from the whip. And wit
           my experience, if'n I can give
           comfort, then comfort I give. And
           you take comfort, Patsey; the Good
           Lord will manage Epps. In His own
           time the Good Lord will manage dem
           all. Yes, Lordy, there's a day
           comin' that will burn as an oven.
           It comin' as sure as the Lord is
           just. When His will be done...the
           curse on the Pharos is a poor
           example of all that wait 'fo the
           plantation class.
           Mistress Shaw turns her head to the side, catching a
           slave's attention. As she does so, the slave, a YOUNG
           WOMAN, commences to pour tea.
           As if to punctuate her thought, the Mistress takes a sip
           of her tea.

                         

                         105 105

           EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION - LATER

           Solomon and Patsey are returning from Shaw's. Waiting on
           the porch of the Great House, a drunk Epps beckons for
           Patsey, his lewd intentions obvious.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           72.

                         105 CONTINUED: 105

                          EPPS
           Pats...! Patsey!

                          SOLOMON
           Do not look in his direction.
           Continue on.
           Epps does not care to be ignored. He lifts himself and
           moves toward the pair in a rage.

                          EPPS
           Patsey...!
           Solomon moves between Epps and Patsey, cutting Epps off
           as Patsey continues on. Playing up his "ignorance" of

                          THE SITUATION:

                          SOLOMON
           Found her, Master, and brought her
           back just as instructed.

                          EPPS
           What'd you jus now tell her?
           What'd you say to Pats?

                          SOLOMON
           No words were spoken. None of
           consequence.

                          EPPS
           Lie! Damned liar! Saw you
           talkin' with 'er. Tell me!

                          SOLOMON
           I cannot speak of what did not
           occur.
           Epps grabs Solomon.

                          EPPS
           I'll cut your black throat.
           Solomon pulls away from Epps, RIPPING HIS SHIRT IN THE
           PROCESS. Epps gives chase. Solomon begins to run around
           the large pig sty, easily keeping his distance. Epps,
           however is undeterred. He moves after Solomon as
           speedily as he can, which isn't very speedily at all.
           And quickly he tires. Epps is forced to bend over and
           suck air. Solomon maintains his distance, barely
           breathing hard. His breath returned to him, Epps starts
           up the chase again. Solomon runs on out of reach.
           Shortly, Epps again stops, gets his breath... And now in
           what should be quite comical, Epps again runs after
           Solomon. Again, Epps's vigor leaves him before he can
           even get close to the slave.
           Dropping down to the dirt, in a show of regret and piety:

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          73.

                         105 CONTINUED: (2) 105

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Platt... Platt, liquor filled me.
           I admit that it did, and I done
           over reacted. It's the Lord's
           day. Ain't nothin' Christian in
           us carryin' on like this. Help me
           ta my feet, and let us both pray
           to the Lord for forgiveness.
           Epps extends a hand to Solomon. Cautiously, Solomon
           moves close, but not too close. As Solomon draws within
           striking distance, Epps lunges for him. He chases
           Solomon on until he is again out of breath and once more
           drops down. And again offering a treaty:

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           I'm all done in, Platt. I have
           met my limitations, and I ain't
           equal to 'em. I concede to yah,
           but in the name of valor, help yer
           master to his feet.
           Solomon cautiously moves closer to help. Again he is
           attacked by Epps - this time by knife. Sort of. Epps is
           too drunk and tired to fully open the folding blade - and
           chased far around the field by Epps. ALL OF THE

           PRECEDING SHOULD BE MORE FUNNY THAN SHOCKING. A CHANGE

           OF PACE FROM THE OTHERWISE NECESSARY BLEAKNESS OF SLAVE

           LIFE.
           Mistress Epps comes running from the house to the pair.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           What? Wha's the fuss?

                          SOLOMON
           A misunderstanding is all. It
           began when I was sent to retrieve
           Patsey from where she'd taken
           sabbatical at Master Shaw's. Upon
           returning, Master Epps believed
           Patsey and me to be in
           conversation when we were not. I
           tried to explain, but it lead to
           all this.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           What is it? Ya cain't remain the
           Sabbath without her under your
           eye? Ya are a no-account bastard.

                          EPPS
           Hold a moment...

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           A filthy, godless heathen. My bed
           is too holy for yah ta share.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           74.

                         105 CONTINUED: (3) 105

                          EPPS
           Wha's...wha's he been tellin' yah?

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Of yer misbegotten ways.

                          EPPS
           And he would know what of
           anythin'? I ain't even spoken
           with him today. Platt, yah lyin'
           nigger, have I? Have I?
           Discretion being the better part and all, Solomon remains
           silent.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           There; there's all the truth he
           got. Damned nigger. Damn yah.
           Epps pushes his way past the Mistress.

                         

                         106 106

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY


           -AUGUST, 1844-
           With the sun yet again high in the sky the slaves are
           working the field picking cotton. As before THEY SING A
           SPIRITUAL, the only thing that distracts them from the
           tedium at hand.
           But there is no distracting from the heat. We see Henry
           begin to falter before it... And eventually collapse
           right in the dirt. Though the other slaves take note,
           none move to help him. None dare.
           From Treach rather matter of factly:

                          TREACH
           Get him water.
           Edward runs to fetch a gourd. He carries it to Henry,

           DUMPS THE WATER ON HIM, BUT DOES NOT ACTUALLY GIVE HENRY

           ANYTHING TO DRINK.
           Roused, Henry rights himself.

                          EDWARD
           Go'won. Git up.
           Unsteadily, Henry lifts himself and goes back to picking
           cotton. He joins in again with the spiritual, as if the
           song is all that can keep him going.

                         

                         107 107

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACKS - NIGHT


           -OCTOBER, 1844-

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           75.

                         107 CONTINUED: 107
           The slaves are asleep. Epps arrives, again without
           knocking, with his whip in hand. The slaves stir. Uncle

                          ABRAM ASKS:

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           We dance tonight, massa?
           Epps remains quietly focused on Patsey. And it's clear
           from her apprehensive expression just what it is he's
           come looking for. This time there is no escaping it. As
           if to acknowledge the badness to come, Phebe lightly
           cries.

                         

                         108 108

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SMOKE HOUSE - NIGHT

           On top of a wood pile, in the back of the smoke house -
           Epps shoves Patsey. He stops, stands as if gathering his
           manhood, then he's all over Patsey. He is rough and
           clumsy. It looks like something between an awkward rape
           and a virgin attempting his first sexual encounter.
           Patsey does not respond in any way other than to
           continually turn her head from Epps, but otherwise remain
           as still as possible. If there is such a thing, she is
           vicious with her passive aggressiveness.
           Epps's frustration mounts until - as the Mistress Shaw
           had cautioned - he crosses the line from passion to
           violence. He begins slapping Patsey to get a response
           from her. When that fails, he punches her which only
           leads to him taking up his whip and lashing Patsey
           MERCILESSLY. Still, she gives him nothing. Beaten,
           Patsey sits in the dirt among the cotton, Epps deep
           breathing above her. The desire for sex now having left
           him.
           Epps heads from the field. Patsey is left where she is.

                         

                         109 109

           INT. BARTHOLOMEW'S - DAY


           -NOVEMBER, 1844-
           As before, Solomon waits as Bartholomew fills Mistress
           Epps order. Among the items set before Solomon is
           another quantity of foolscap.

                         

                         110 110

           EXT. ROAD - DAY

           Solomon is making his way back to the Epps plantation.
           He carries with him a sack filled with the goods from the
           store. As he walks, SOLOMON LOOKS AROUND CASUALLY. When
           he is certain he is alone, he sets down the sack, opens
           it and appropriates A SINGLE SHEET OF THE PAPER which he
           folds and places in his pocket. That done, he cinches up
           the sack and continues on his way.

          76.

                         

                         

                         111 OMIT 111

                         

          112 INT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - DAY 112

           Solomon takes the slip of paper and hides it within his
           fiddle. Perhaps the safest place he can think of. He
           acts as though he's hiding away found gold. In reality
           it's more than that. For Solomon the paper is a first
           step toward freedom.

                         

                         113 113

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/MAIN HOUSE - NIGHT


           -DECEMBER, 1844-
           It's another night of Epps's forced revelry. Coming in
           quick from the previous scene, we go from Solomon holding
           his fiddle, to playing it as the slaves are again made to
           dance.
           Mistress Epps brings out a tray of freshly baked
           pastries. She sets them down on a table.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           A moment from the dancing. Come
           sample what I baked for y'all.
           The slaves, thankful for the rest as much as the food,
           file toward the tray reciting a chorus of "Thank you,
           Mistress." As Patsey moves toward the pastries:

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           There'll be none for you, Patsey.
           Patsey merely turns away. Her non responsiveness,
           however, serves only to incite the Mistress. Screaming:

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           Yah see that? Did yah see the
           look of insolence she give me?

                          EPPS
           Seen nothin' but her turn away.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Are you blind or ignorant? It was
           hot, hateful scorn. It filled
           that black face. Yah tell me yah
           did'n see it, then yah choose not
           to look, or yah sayin' I lie.

                          EPPS
           Whatever it was, it passed.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Is that how yah are with the
           niggers? Let every ill thought
           fester inside 'em. Look at 'em.

                          (MORE) (CONTINUED)

          77.

                         113 CONTINUED: 113

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           They foul with it; foul with their
           hate. You let it be, it'll come
           back to us in the dark a night.
           Yah want that? Yah want them
           black animals to leave us gut like
           pigs in our own sleep?
           Epps isn't sure how to respond to the inchoate berating.
           It's an invitation for the Mistress to continue.

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           You are manless. A damned eunuch
           if ever there was. And if yah
           won't stand for me, I'd pray you'd
           at least be a credit to yer own
           kind and beat every foul thought
           from 'em.
           Epps does nothing. The Mistress lets her anger loose.
           She moves quickly to Patsey, DRIVES HER NAILS INTO THE

           PATSEY'S FACE AND DRAWS THEM DOWN ACROSS HER FEATURES.

           FIVE DEEP AND BLOODY GASHES ARE LEFT IN PATSEY'S SKIN,
           the moment marked with appropriate screams. Patsey
           collapses on the floor, covering her bleeding face.

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           Beat it from 'em!
           Thoroughly cuckolded by the Mistress's actions, Epps
           takes his whip and pulls Patsey out of the house. His
           intentions are plain.
           All the slaves remain silent. The Mistress, however,
           displaying high satisfaction, entreats the others:

           MISTRESS EPPS (CONT'D)
           Eat. Fill yourselves. ...And
           then we dance.
           The slaves eat, but without a hint of levity.

                         

                         114 114

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           We come up on the slaves who lay sleeping. All except
           for Patsey. She rises from her bedding, goes to a corner
           of the cabin and removes something from a secretive
           location. She then moves over to Platt.

                          PATSEY
           Platt... Platt, you awake?

                          SOLOMON
           I am.

                          PATSEY
           I have a request; an act of
           kindness.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           78.

                         114 CONTINUED: 114
           Patsey displays what she took from hiding. It is a

           LADY'S FINGER RING.

                          PATSEY (CONT'D)
           I secreted it from the Mistress.

                          SOLOMON
           Return it!

                          PATSEY
           It yours, Platt.

                          SOLOMON
           For what cause?

                          PATSEY
           All I ask: end my life. Take my
           body to the margin of the swamp--
           Solomon looks at Patsey as though she were insane.

                          SOLOMON
           No.

                          PATSEY
           Take me by the throat. Hold me
           low in the water until I's still
           'n without life. Bury me in a
           lonely place of dyin'.

                          SOLOMON
           No! I will do no such thing.
           The...the gory detail with which

                          YOU SPEAK--

                          PATSEY
           I thought on it long and hard.

                          SOLOMON
           It is melancholia, nothing more.
           How does such despair even come to
           you?

                          PATSEY
           How can you not know? I got no
           comfort in this life. If I cain't
           buy mercy from yah, I'll beg it.

                          SOLOMON
           There are others. Beg them.

                          PATSEY
           I'm begging you!

                          SOLOMON
           Why? Why would you consign me to
           damnation with such an un-Godly
           request?

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          79.

                         114 CONTINUED: (2) 114

                          PATSEY
           There is God here! God is
           merciful, and He forgive merciful
           acts. Won't be no hell for you.
           Do it. Do what I ain't got the
           strength ta do myself.
           Solomon says nothing. Clearly he's not about to do the
           deed. With nothing else to do, knowing she is damned
           with every breath she draws, Patsey crawls back to her
           spot on the floor and lays herself down.

                          BLACK

                         

                         115 115

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY


           -JULY, 1846-
           Hard times on the planation. Where previously the field
           in bloom was a carpet of white, it is now patchy and
           under grown.
           The slaves move through the field picking not cotton, but
           rather COTTON WORMS from the plants. The cotton worms
           have dined on the cotton and nearly destroyed the crop.
           We see the cotton worms in extreme close-up, moving among
           and destroying the cotton crop.
           Epps is beside himself as he looks out over his ruined
           field.

                          EPPS
           It is a plague.

           TREACH (O.S.)
           Cotton worm.

                          EPPS
           A plague! It's damn Biblical.
           Two season God done sent a plague
           to smite me. I am near ruination.
           Why, Treach? What I done that God
           hate me so? Do I not preach His
           word?

           TREACH (O.S.)
           The whole Bayou sufferin'.

                          EPPS
           I don't care nothin' fer the damn
           Bayou. I'm sufferin'.
           Epps looks among his slaves at work, his enmity growing.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           It's that Godless lot. They
           brought this on me. I bring 'em

                          (MORE) (CONTINUED)

           80.

                         115 CONTINUED: 115

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           God's word, and heathens they are,
           they brung me God's scorn.
           Crazed, Epps runs into the field, taking himself from
           slave to slave delivering a whipping to all he can lay
           his hands on.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Damn you! Damn you all! Damn
           you!

                         

                         116 116

                          RE-OMIT

                         

          117 EXT. JUDGE TURNER'S PLANTATION - EVENING 117


           -OCTOBER, 1846-
           Henry, Bob, Uncle Abram and Solomon sit in the back of a
           cart. SOLOMON HAS HIS FIDDLE WITH HIM. Epps has
           delivered the men to JUDGE TURNER, a distinguished man
           and extensive planter whose large estate is situated on
           Bayou Salle within a few miles of the gulf. Epps and
           Turner stand off to one side engaged in bargaining as
           Henry, Bob, Uncle Abram and Solomon wait and watch.
           One of the slaves whisper under their breath.

                          EPPS' SLAVE
           I hear cutting cane is twice as
           hard as picking cotton.

                          BOB
           But at least we'll be away from
           Master Epps.

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           Boy, you two have no sense.
           Epps returns to his slaves and gives a parting
           salutation.

                          EPPS
           Yer Judge Turner's for the season.
           More if need be, until my crop
           return. Yah'll bring no
           disrespect to me, and yah'll bring
           no biblical plagues to him. Be
           decent, ere mark my words, I will
           deliver an ungodly whippin'.

                         

                         118 118

           INT. SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT


                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           81.

                         118 CONTINUED: 118
           Slaves are crammed into the shack - LITERALLY ON TOP OF
           EACH OTHER - as they try to sleep. Some lay, some sit
           up. Packed in like cattle, there is barely room to move
           let alone draw a deep, clean breath. There is a real
           risk of suffocating in the mass. Some cough and wheeze.

           A CHILD CRIES...
           Among them is Solomon who must believe at this point that
           his life has reached its very lowest point. The odds of
           survival are slight, let alone the chance of actually
           ever returning to his family. This clearly weighs on him
           as he struggles to find anything like comfortable space
           in the pen.

                         

                         119 119

           EXT. CANE FIELDS - DAY

           An OVERSEER is explaining to the new slaves - SOLOMON
           AMONG THEM - how to cultivate cane. WITH A KNIFE IN HAND
           he demonstrates the process:

                          OVERSEER
           Draw the cane from the rick, cut
           the top and flags from the stalk,
           understand? Leave only that part
           which is sound and healthy. Cast
           off the rest...

                         

                         120 120

           EXT. CANE FIELDS - DAY


           -NOVEMBER, 1846-
           ABOUT THIRTY SLAVES are working the field. They are
           divided into THREE GANGS. The first which draw the cane,
           the next lay the cane in the drill, the last then hoe the
           rows after.
           Solomon is among a gang that draws and cuts, and he moves
           with speed and skill. Certainly more so than he
           displayed picking cotton.
           Standing with his overseer, Judge Turner watches.

                         

                         121 121

           INT. SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           Again, the slaves have been herded into the shack and
           pressed together.
           As he tries to rest - sleep is nearly impossible -
           Solomon finds himself face to face with a woman, ANNA.
           She is awake. For a few beats she avoids eye contact
           with Solomon. She seems, like Solomon, to be
           unaccustomed to her surroundings and horribly frightened
           by them. Eventually her eyes meet Solomon's. She makes
           no sound, but great apprehension spills from her eyes.
           Whatever's next, whatever horror awaits, she can barely
           stand to face. Fear, proximity... They drive her hand

                          (CONTINUED)

          81A.

                         121 CONTINUED: 121
           to Solomon's. After a moment of seemingly reacquainting
           herself with genuine human contact, the woman TAKES

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          82.

                         121 CONTINUED: (2) 121
           SOLOMON'S HAND AND PRESSES IT TO HER BREAST. Solomon
           tries to jerk his hand away, but ANNA HOLDS IT IN PLACE.
           Manipulating Solomon's hand, she begins to massage her
           breast. Solomon takes no real pleasure in the act -
           really, neither does Anna. THERE SHOULD BE A TRUE SENSE

           ANNA IS JUST SO VERY, VERY DESPERATE FOR HUMAN CONTACT,

           FOR THE NEED TO FEEL ALIVE AND LIKE A PERSON RATHER THAN

           AN ANIMAL THAT EMOTIONALLY SHE IS WILLING TO ENGAGE

           SOLOMON.
           The need quickly compounds. Anna presses her lips to
           Solomon's. Eventually, SHE DIRECTS HIS HAND BENEATH HER
           DRESS AND BETWEEN HER LEGS. Solomon, with slightly more
           compassion than a guy making union wages, BEGINS TO
           MANIPULATE ANNA WITH HIS HAND. The act remains more
           perfunctory than passionate.
           We can see Anna moving toward climax and eventual
           release. But more - or substantially less - than joyous
           sex, it is really just a drug-like inoculation against
           reality. But the feeling quickly fades. All that
           remains, as with most chance encounters, is regret.
           And there is shame, too. This is put on display as Anna
           turns away from Solomon. As quickly as it began, it is
           as though the act had not happened at all.

                         

                         122 122

                          OMIT

                         

          123 EXT. JUDGE TURNER'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - EVENING 123

           Solomon waits outside the house on the porch. A house
           servant - ZACHARY - approaches and admonishes Solomon.

                          ZACHARY
           Off the porch. Get off.
           Like a dog shooed away, Solomon steps down.
           Eventually Judge Turner exits the house and crosses to
           Solomon.

                          SOLOMON
           ...Sir...

                          JUDGE TURNER
           Platt is it? Have you cultivated
           cane previously?

                          SOLOMON
           No, sir, I have not.

                          JUDGE TURNER
           You take to it quite naturally.
           Are you educated?

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          83.

                         123 CONTINUED: 123

                          SOLOMON
           Niggers are hired to work, not to
           read and write.
           Turner gives that a bit of consideration as he gives
           Solomon a wary looking over.

                         

                          JUDGE TURNER
           You play the fiddle?

                          SOLOMON
           I do.

                          JUDGE TURNER
           Willard Yarney, a planter up the
           bayou, celebrates his anniversary
           in a three week's time. I will
           hold out your name to him. What
           you earn is yours to keep.

                          SOLOMON
           Sir.

                          JUDGE TURNER
           Mind yourself, Platt.

                          SOLOMON

                          
           Yes, sir.

                         

          124 EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - LATER (MOVED FROM 124) 124 

           Work over, the slaves congregate to eat.
           As Solomon eats, he takes note of the JUICE FROM SOME

           BERRIES ON HIS PLATE.

                         

          125 EXT. TURNER'S PLANTATION - EVENING (MOVED FROM 125) 125 

           Solomon plays with a piece of cane, fashions it into some
           kind of writing tool, testing it in the mud. He then
           brushes over the dirt with his hand.

          84.

                         

                         

          126 EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - NIGHT (MOVED FROM 126) 126 

           Secreted away out near the edge of the bayou and sitting
           by a small fire, Solomon takes the slip of paper from his
           fiddle. It is yellowed, showing age, but still usable.
           Dipping the piece of cane - a quill - into the crushed
           berries, Solomon attempts to write a bit on the paper.
           The berry juice, too free-flowing, is unusable as ink.
           Solomon returns the paper to the fiddle. He has some
           scraps of food with him, which he snacks on.

                         

                         A127 A127 

                          OMITTED

                         

          A127A INT. SLAVE SHACK - DAY A127A 

           We see a sharp object scratching onto a surface. The 
           tool moves on to form another mark. The sound is 
           repetitive and almost unbearable. As we move out, we see 
           the names Anne, Margaret, Alonzo. They are engraved onto 
           the violin, in the hidden area where Solomon would rest 
           his chin. 
           Solomon looks at it for a moment, moving his fingertips 
           across the engraving. His face full of loss. 
           Sadly, he lifts his instrument under his chin and leaning 
           his head to the side as if to play. 

                         

          127 INT. YARNEY'S HOUSE - EVENING 127

           A party has commenced at the noble home of one MR.
           YARNEY. A group of REVELERS have gathered and are on the
           dance floor, in fancy dress. Their faces are covered with
           a variation of decorative masks. The party is a feast of
           celebration. As entertainment, SOLOMON ACCOMPANIES A
           GROUP OF MUSICIANS, no more than three. And as he does
           so, they all play with jovial liveliness. Clearly a good
           time is being had by all.

                         

                         128 128

           EXT. ROAD - NIGHT

           His playing done for the evening, Solomon is returning to
           Judge Turner's on foot. There is only the moonlight with
           which to light the way. As he walks, Solomon eats from a
           HEARTY CHUCK OF BREAD. Obviously part of his haul from
           the evening. Solomon again hears noises coming from the
           brush just up ahead of him. Solomon tears off some of
           the bread, kneels and holds it out before him.

                          SOLOMON
           C'mere. C'mon, boy.

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          85.

                         128 CONTINUED: 128
           This time, there is no dog. Instead, from the dark and
           the brush step TWO BLACK MEN. Solomon stands. He looks
           the men over - their clothes tatters and they themselves
           covered in dirt. It becomes quite clear they are not
           just slaves. A fact confirmed when they step menacingly
           toward Solomon, ONE WITH A SHIV IN HAND.
           At first it seems they want Solomon's food or money.
           Worse, THEY GO FOR HIS FIDDLE.
           Solomon has but a moment to brace himself before he is
           attacked, TAKING A CUT TO THE ARM. Solomon fights back,
           PICKING UP A PINE KNOT and striking his attacker over the
           head. That takes the fight out of him, and both men
           retreat back the way they came leaving Solomon be.

                         

                         A129 A129

           EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - NIGHT

           Outside of the slave shacks Solomon's wound tended by
           Uncle Abram. As he works on it:

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           Runaways I would expect. The
           Bayou full with 'em. They nothin'
           'mo dangerous than a nigger in
           flight.

                          SOLOMON
           They acted out of desperation.

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           Act outta lunacy. Heads fulla
           stories 'bout life up north. Yah
           ever been north, Platt?

                          SOLOMON
           ...No...

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           And never should yah be. I hope
           that yah never bear witness the
           sorry condition of the northern
           black. Got neither no purpose,
           nor direction. They jus...they
           jus fall about the streets in
           search of sustenance of both body
           and spirit.

                          SOLOMON
           You know this to be so?

                          UNCLE ABRAM
           Two of my massas tolt me.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          86.

          A129 CONTINUED: A129

                         

                         

                         

                         129 OMIT 129

                         

          130 EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - NIGHT 130


           -FEBRUARY/MARCH, 1847-
           Alone out on the edge of the Bayou, Solomon is playing a
           low air on his violin WHILE SNACKING ON SCRAPS OF BACON.
           As he plays, something appears in the distance. From the
           edge of the bayou, coming forth like an apparition arisen
           from the earth, is CELESTE. She is a young woman of
           about 19 years of age and far whiter than most blacks.

           "IT REQUIRED CLOSE INSPECTION TO DISTINGUISH IN HER
           FEATURE THE SLIGHTEST TRACE OF AFRICAN BLOOD." Beyond
           that, she is pale and haggard, but still lovely.
           Dressed in a white gown, she emerges from the water.
           Draped on her dress, her period. A line in her skirt.
           It's very visible, but not shocking. A ribbon of red in
           her dress.
           Celeste moves to Solomon without fear or hesitation. As
           Solomon, startled, takes her in, Celeste says quite

                          PLAINLY:

                          CELESTE
           I am hungry. Give me food.

                          SOLOMON
           Who are you?

                          CELESTE
           I'm hungry.
           Solomon gives Celeste some of his food. Celeste,
           famished, devours it.

                          SOLOMON
           What is your name?

                          CELESTE
           My name is Celeste.

                          SOLOMON
           What are your circumstances?

                          CELESTE
           I belong ta Massa Carey, and 'ave
           been two days among da palmettoes.
           Celeste is sick and cain't work,
           and would rather die in the swamp

                          (MORE)

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           87.

                         130 CONTINUED: 130

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           than be whipped to death by the
           overseer. So I took myself away.
           Massa's dogs won't follow me. The
           patrollers 'ave tried to set dem
           on me. But dey a secret between
           dem and Celeste, and dey won't
           mind the devilish orders of the
           overseer.
           Celeste lifts her head from the food on which she gnaws.

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           Do you believe me?

                          SOLOMON
           Yes.

                          CELESTE
           Why?

                          SOLOMON
           There are some whose tracks the
           hounds will refuse to follow.

                          CELESTE
           Give me more food. I'm starvin'.

                          SOLOMON
           This is all my allowance for the

                          REST OF--

                          CELESTE
           Give it to me.
           Almost as if compelled, Solomon does as ordered. As she
           eats, Celeste aggrandizes herself:

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           Most slaves escape at night. The
           overseers are alert for such
           chicanes. But Celeste tricked dem
           'n alight in the middle of the day
           wit the sun up at its highest.
           The place of my concealment now
           deep in the swamp, not half a mile
           from Massa's plantation, and a
           world apart. A world a tall
           trees whose long arms make fo' a
           canopy so dense dey keep away even
           the beams of the sun. It twilight
           always in Celeste's world, even in
           the brightest day. I will live
           there, and I will live freely.
           The overseers are a cowardly lot.
           Dey will not go where their dogs
           show fear and where it always be
           night. Others will join me in the
           twilight, and we ain't gunna be
           slaves no 'mo forever.

                          (CONTINUED)

          88.

                         130 CONTINUED: (2) 130
           Solomon isn't sure what to say. Before he can say

                          ANYTHING:

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           Celeste will come to you again in
           the night. You will have food for
           her.
           Celeste departs the way she came; as though she were a
           vision.

                         

                         131 131

           INT. JUDGE TURNER'S PLANTATION/FOOD STORAGE - NIGHT

           Solomon stealthfully makes his way into the storage shed.
           Dried and smoked meats are hung, and milled corn is
           about. Taking out a handkerchief, Solomon begins to load
           it with food. Not too much. Not so much his thievery
           will be readily noticed, but he does avail himself.

                         

                         132 132

           EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - NIGHT

           Solomon plays his violin, but plays it with an anxious
           nature as he waits.
           Then, as before, a figure appears in the distance. It is
           Celeste coming out of the night. She makes her way
           directly to Solomon. With no greeting, she says:

                          CELESTE
           I am hungry.
           Solomon gives Celeste the handkerchief he's filled. She
           opens it, and begins to devour the food. As she eats:

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           I was rude, and didn't even ask yo
           name.

                          SOLOMON
           Platt.

                          (BEAT)
           Solomon. Solomon is my true and
           free name.

                          CELESTE
           Was you free?

                          SOLOMON
           I was. I am.
           Solomon exposes his wrist, displays his tattoo as he

                          ANNOUNCES:

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           I remain free in my heart.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           89.

                         132 CONTINUED: 132
           Giving a laugh as though it's the silliest thing she's

                          HEARD:

                          CELESTE
           Free heart means nothin if'n yo
           body gunna die a slave.

                          SOLOMON
           I will not.

                          CELESTE
           How? Celeste knows you ain't
           gunna run. Celeste knows it ain't
           your nature.

                          SOLOMON
           I have a plan. I have a letter.

                          CELESTE
           A letter? How'll yah mail da
           letter? Who yah trust to post it?
           A nigger that can read and write
           is a nigger that'll hang.
           There is a pause. Solomon can't answer this question. It
           is the glaring hole in his plan.
           Having finished eating:

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          90.

                         132 CONTINUED: (2) 132

                          CELESTE (CONT'D)
           Celeste will come again in de
           night. You will bring her 'mo
           food.

                          SOLOMON
           I risk discovery to take more.

                          CELESTE
           You will bring Celeste 'mo food.
           And with that Celeste again moves back into the darkness.

                         

                         133 133

                          OMIT

                         

                         134 OMIT 134

                         

          135 EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - EVENING 135

           Solomon is picking at the bark off a WHITE MAPLE.

                         

          136 EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - EVENING 136

           In a tin cup, over a fire, Solomon boils the white maple
           bark in just a bit of water.

                         

          137 INT. JUDGE TURNER'S PLANTATION/SLAVES CABIN - NIGHT 137

           As others sleep, by the light of dying coals, Solomon
           uses the quill to test the boiled bark. The liquid holds
           as a form of ink. It is no?t ideal, but it is legible on
           the page. Armed with this, Solomon writes his letter.

                         

                         138 138

           EXT. TURNER PLANTATION - NIGHT

           Solomon sits with Celeste. He relates his news to her.

                          SOLOMON
           I have my letter.

                          CELESTE
           Yah has your freedom then?

                          SOLOMON
           All that remains is to contrive
           measures by which the letter can
           safely be deposited in the post
           office.
           When Celeste speaks she is quite melancholy.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           91.

                         138 CONTINUED: 138

                          CELESTE
           I have resolved to return to my
           Massa.
           Solomon gives an unnerved look. This is not good news.

                          SOLOMON
           Is it more food you need?

                          CELESTE
           I live in fear.

                          SOLOMON
           None will come after you in the
           swamps.

                          CELESTE
           It ain't the patrollers I scared
           of... At all seasons the howling
           of wild animals can be heard at
           night along the border of the
           swamps. At first their calls were
           welcomin'. Dey too was free, 'n I
           thought dey greeted me like a
           sistah. Lately, dey cries have
           turned horrifyin'. They mean to
           kill Celeste.

                          SOLOMON
           The solitude plays tricks. It's
           your impression, nothing more. If
           you go back to your master you
           could face the same.

                          CELESTE
           My freedom been nothin' but a
           daydream. So was Celeste's
           thoughts of slaves conjoinin' in
           the bayou.

                          SOLOMON
           Better the loneliness. You have
           been free most of the summer.
           Return now and your master will
           make example of you.

                          CELESTE
           It is lonely dwellin' waiting for
           others who won't never come.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          92.

                         138 CONTINUED: (2) 138

                          SOLOMON
           Go north. Make your way by
           night...

                          CELESTE
           It'll only be worse if'n Celeste
           don't go back of her own will.

                          SOLOMON
           You won't be caught. The dogs
           won't track you. You are...you
           are unique. Celeste...

                          CELESTE
           You got alternatives, Solomon.

                          SOLOMON
           To return is to die!

                          CELESTE
           Celeste got no one to write a
           letter to.
           As if to punctuate her resolve, without a word more
           Celeste departs toward the swamp. Solomon starts on into
           the swamp after her.

                          SOLOMON
           Celeste... Celeste!
           Solomon continues after Celeste, wading deeper into the
           dark night and murky waters.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Celeste, I will guide you north!
           Wait, and I will take you.
           Celeste is too nimble. She outpaces Solomon, continues
           on and disappears into the night.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Let me take you! Let me go with
           you!
           Solomon runs on, then splashes to a stop. He stumbles
           around disoriented, calling into the blackness:

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Celeste...
           Nothing. No answer. Not a human one. There are sounds
           and echoes - some in the distance, some perhaps moving
           closer - which, moment by moment, become more and more
           frightening. Soon, Solomon realizes he is in quite
           literally over his head; the water first chest deep, then
           neck deep. With no way to orient himself, no means to
           guide him in the dark, Solomon's reserve begins to
           crumble. He thrashes in the water trying to find his way

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          93.

                         138 CONTINUED: (3) 138
           back to shore. No longer trying to save Celeste, Solomon
           calls to her - desperately - for assistance.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Celeste! Come to me, Celeste!
           In that moment Solomon is quite certain he is nearly
           done; that he will not find land, nor aid and that this
           is his final moment. His panic should be that tangible.
           It is either force of will, or survival instinct...or
           maybe just pure luck that carries Solomon on until he
           reaches first muddy ground, then firm footing. Hauling
           himself onto the swamps edge, Solomon finally collapses
           in a drenched, worn heap. His life spared, but Celeste
           never to be seen again.

                          BLACK

                         

                         139 139

           EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION - DAY


           -MAY/JUNE, 1847-
           We come up now outside of Master Epps's plantation. Epps
           stands in the drive. He's in surprisingly good spirits
           as Solomon, Uncle Abram, Henry and Bob trudge their way
           wearily toward Epps and his other slaves who are
           gathered.
           The cotton field is in full bloom, the crop fully
           returned.

                          EPPS
           A joyous day. A joyous day. Dark
           times is behind us. Clean livin'
           'n prayer done lifted the plague.
           Indicating to the cotton:

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           As thick 'n white as New England
           snow. 'N now my niggers is
           returned to me.

                          (TO SOLOMON)
           Heard Judge Turner gave you favor.
           Oh, did you beguile him, Platt,
           with your slick nigger ways?
           Well, yah won't stand idle, boy.
           Not on my land. Much work to do.
           Days of old long since, eh?
           Joyous! Joyous indeed!
           Throughout Epps's welcome, Solomon's focus is on Patsey
           who is lined up with the other slaves. SHE IS NOW MORE
           HAGGARD THAN WHEN WE LAST SAW HER. Her face and arms
           display many new scars. It's clear that in the
           intervening years she has quite literally been a whipping
           boy for Epps and the Mistress.

          94.

                         

                         

          140 EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/COTTON FIELD - DAY 140


           -JULY, 1847-
           The slaves are out working on the field. White hands
           appear, picking cotton: ARMSBY. He is wholly unskilled at
           picking cotton, and he puts little effort into the job.
           As we meet him he seems a decent sort if a little short
           on self-motivation. In anachronistic terminology, he'd
           be called a "slacker." He joins in with the slaves,
           singing a spiritual.

                         

                         141 141

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GIN HOUSE - EVENING

           As Epps said, it is days of long since. The slaves are
           back to having their cotton weighed in the Gin House

                          EPPS
           Wiley...?

                          TREACH
           Two hundred sixty pounds.

                          EPPS
           Bob?

                          TREACH
           Three hundred forty pounds for
           Bob.

                          EPPS
           Patsey?

                          TREACH
           Five hundred twenty pounds.

                          EPPS
           Tha's a girl. Don't never let me
           down. Platt?

                          TREACH
           One hundred sixty pounds.
           Before Treach is even done announcing the weight, Epps
           has pulled Solomon aside to where Uncle Abram already
           awaits his fate.

                          EPPS
           Armsby?

                          TREACH
           Sixty four pounds.
           Epps speaks to Armsby sternly, but nothing of the manner
           in which he would address the slaves.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           95.

                         141 CONTINUED: 141

                          EPPS
           A good days labor would average
           two hundred pounds.

                          ARMSBY
           Yes, sir.

                          EPPS
           I'm sure in time y'll develope as
           a picker, but it takes effort,
           boy. Put some damn effort into
           it.

                          ARMSBY
           Yes, sir.
           To Treach, regarding Solomon and Abram:

                          EPPS
           Take 'em out. Get to whippin'.
           No force is needed. The slaves understand the situation.
           They follow Treach out of the Gin house.

                         

                         142 142

           EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           We come in after the punishment has been dealt. Patsey
           tends to Uncle Abram's back as Armsby applies liniments
           to Solomon's. As he does, Armsby muses:

                          ARMSBY
           It's a tragedy. How does such
           come to pass? Working a field and
           picking cotton like a lowly hand.
           I'm of a damn sight better
           station. And my desires never
           lacked for a grandiose component,
           though I will admit they have at
           times been short on ingenuity.
           But only at times. I've worked as
           an overseer, you know.

                          SOLOMON
           I did not, sir.

                          ARMSBY
           Not "sir." Just Armsby. Not owed
           more than any other in the field.
           I worked plantations from
           Virginia, down into Alabama. I
           could manage easy a hundred slaves
           and have done so. But to toil in
           the field? Never thought that
           would come to pass. Never. But
           times are desperate. Where once I
           had said "no" to Epps and his
           merger offerings, I returned cap

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          96.

                         142 CONTINUED: 142

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           in hand. ...Look at what I've
           become.

                          SOLOMON
           How did you arrive at such a
           place, if I may ask?

                          ARMSBY
           Ask. It's just conversation.
           From a pocket Armsby produces a flask.

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           I became a little too dependant on
           the whisky, a little too
           undependable on the job. Before
           you say I'm just a sorry drunkard,
           let me state my case: As reliable
           employment as overseeing is, it's
           no easy chore on the spirit. I
           say no man of conscious can take
           the lash to another human day in,
           and day out without shredding at
           his own self. Takes him to a
           place where he either makes
           excuses within his mind to be
           unaffected... Or finds some way
           to trample his guilty sensations.
           Well, I trampled.
           Armsby takes a drink.

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           And with frequency.

                          SOLOMON
           Where is your place of birth?

                          ARMSBY
           Maryland. Have you traveled
           there?

                          SOLOMON
           ...I cannot say that I have.

                          ARMSBY
           Fine country. More seasonal than
           the bayou. A deal less humid.

                          SOLOMON
           Why did you leave it?

                          ARMSBY
           To make my fortune, of course. I
           gave in to tales of wealth and
           prosperity that were the lore of
           the southern states: all that's
           needed being a patch of land and a
           few good growing seasons. Cotton,

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          97.

                         142 CONTINUED: (2) 142

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           or tobacco. And then locating a
           proper bank in which to store your
           riches. But such profitable
           outcomes are reserved for the
           plantation masters. It's the lot
           of the rest of us to serve. So I
           settled on being an overseer, and
           failed as well at that. In the
           meantime my dreams gave way to
           reality. Now, I want nothing more
           than to earn a decent wage.

                          (BEAT)
           And get myself home.
           Armsby takes another drink and leans back.

                         

                         143 143

           INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACKS - MORNING


           -AUGUST, 1847-
           We again hear the sound of the HORN BLOWING signaling the
           start of the work day for the slave.

                         

          144 EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY 144

           With the sun yet again high in the sky the slaves are
           working the field picking cotton. As before they sing a
           spiritual, the only thing that distracts them from the
           tedium at hand.
           But there is no distracting from the heat. We see Uncle
           Abram begin to falter and finally drop down to the
           ground.
           Treach calls to Edward:

                          TREACH
           Get him water.
           Edward runs to fetch water which he carries to Abram and

           DUMPS ON HIM...BUT ABRAM DOES NOT RISE. DOES NOT MOVE.
           At this point, the sounds of the singing from the others
           tapers off as they realize Abram isn't getting up.

                         

                         145 145

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE CEMETERY - LATER

           We are beyond the main of the plantation, the cotton
           field in the background. We are at the slaves' cemetery,
           a mixture of crude crosses and unsettled ground.
           Solomon, Bob and Henry, now much visually older than when
           we first saw them, are digging a grave in the dirt. The
           uncovered body of Abram lays near. Having dug down an
           appropriate distance, the three men take the body and,
           very unceremoniously, place it into the ground. Holding

                          (CONTINUED)

          98.

                         145 CONTINUED: 145
           the shovel in his hands, and resting it by his feet, Bob
           tilts his head down and closes his eyes. The others do
           the same. Almost stutteringly, not really knowing what to

                          SAY--

                          BOB
           I just want to say something about
           Uncle Abram. He was a good man and
           he always looked out for us since
           we were little. God Bless him. God
           love him. And God keep him.
           That done, they begin to cover it with dirt. It is all
           the more of a funeral that Abram will receive.

                         

                         146 146

                          OMIT

                         

                         147 OMIT 147

                         

          A148 EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE CEMETERY - LATER A148

           A female voice appears out of the blackness and begins to
           sing solo, "Went down to the river Jordan." A response of
           "Oh Yeah" quickly follows. Again the singer continues,
           "where John baptized three."
           The same faces we have seen on Epps' plantation, but now
           filled with rapture, appear. It's as if the voices have
           created a new form of awakening and presence. It seems to
           transcend and translate in a strange way, joy. A joy
           which has un-yet been seen on screen. A joy which has
           been hidden, but a joy which is undoubtedly there. It's
           captivating, infectious.
           This should be a moving part of the film, which stirs the
           audience and, for a moment, relieves them of the
           seemingly chastising environment.
           The singer continues, "Well some say John was a Baptist,
           some say John was a Jew, but I say John was a preacher,
           because the Bible says so too, preach on Johnny." And
           with that, the rest of the congregation chant "I believe.
           Oh, I believe."

                         

                         148 148

           INT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/WOODS - NIGHT

           Solomon goes to RETRIEVE THE SMALL PACKAGE FROM UNDER A
           ROCK AT THE BASE OF A TREE. Solomon returns the letter to
           hiding. He takes the money with him and cautiously moves
           from the area.

                         

                         149 149

                          OMIT

          99.

                         

                         

          150 INT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/ARMSBY'S SHACK - LATER 150

           The door opens. Solomon enters. Armsby is surprised to
           see him. So much so, he isn't sure what greeting to
           give. Solomon gives a blunt introduction. Re: the

                          COINS:

                          SOLOMON
           The proceeds of my fiddling
           performances. A few picayunes,
           but all I have in the world. I
           promise them to you if you will do
           me the favor I require. But I beg
           you not to expose me if you cannot
           grant the request.

                          ARMSBY
           What do you ask?

                          SOLOMON
           First, your word, sir.

                          ARMSBY
           On my honor.

                          SOLOMON
           It is a simple enough request. I
           ask only that you deposit a letter
           in the Marksville post office.
           And that you keep the action an
           inviolable secret forever. The
           details of the letter are of no
           consequence. Even at that, there
           would be an imposition of much
           pain and suffering were it known I
           was the author. A patron is what
           I require, sir.

                          ARMSBY
           Where's the letter now?

                          SOLOMON
           ...It is not yet written. I will
           have it in a day. Two at most, my
           skill with composition as poor as
           it is.
           Armsby considers the request.

                          ARMSBY
           I will do it. And will accept
           whatever payment is offered.
           Solomon hesitates. In the moment, he's not so sure he
           can wholly give himself over to trust.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          100.

                         150 CONTINUED: 150

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           To assist you, I put my own self
           at risk. I will do so, but fair
           compensation is all I ask.
           Solomon hands over the money.

                          ARMSBY (CONT'D)
           Draw up your letter. We will meet
           again. In two days?

                          SOLOMON
           In two days. ...Thank you.
           Solomon exits.

                         

                         151 151

           EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/COTTON FIELD - DAY

           Solomon and the slaves pick cotton. Armsby is
           conspicuously NOT laboring in the field. As Solomon
           works he is watched by Epps. Watched more than he
           normally is. For a moment it seems it might just be a
           matter of perspective; Solomon's unease over his actions.
           But soon Epps is joined by Armsby. The two men stand and
           talk, their looks locked toward Solomon.
           Whatever it is that is occurring between them continues
           for a long, long moment. But Epps makes no move toward
           Solomon. Solomon continues with his work.

                         

                         152 152

           INT. EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - NIGHT

           The slaves are at rest. Gripping his whip Epps enters,
           without so much as a knock at the door. For a moment
           there's curiosity; is he there for a dance, for
           Patsey...?
           Looking right to Solomon:

                          EPPS
           Get up.
           Solomon does. Epps heads back out into the dark. He
           says nothing, but his directive is clear: Follow me.

                         

          153 EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/SLAVE SHACK - CONTINUOUS 153

           Solomon comes out into the dark. Nearly hidden in the
           shadows is a bitter Epps. Despite the lack of light,
           Epps's malevolence is quite clear. His whip attached to
           his hip. As he speaks, he stokes himself with swigs from
           a FLASK.
           Epps puts his arm around Solomon, as if consoling a
           friend, and guides him into the woods.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          100A.

                         153 CONTINUED: 153

                          EPPS
           Well, boy. I understand I've got
           a larned nigger that writes

                          (MORE)

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          101.

                         153 CONTINUED: (2) 153

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           letters and tries to get white
           fellows to mail 'em.
           Solomon, hardly missing a beat, plays this off.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Well, Armsby tol' me today the
           devil was among my niggers. That
           I had one that needed close
           watchin' or he would run away.
           When I axed him why, he said you
           come over to him and waked him up
           in the middle of the night and
           wanted him to carry a letter to
           Marksville. What have yah got to
           say to that?

                          SOLOMON
           All I have to say, master, is all
           that need be said. There is no
           truth in it.

                          EPPS
           You say.

                          SOLOMON
           How could I write a letter without
           ink or paper? There is nobody I
           want to write to 'cause I hain't
           got no friends living as I know
           of. That Armsby is a lying
           drunken fellow. You know this,
           just as you know that I am
           constant in truth. Now, master, I
           can see what that Armsby is after,
           plain enough. Didn't he want you
           to hire him for an overseer?
           A beat.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           That's it. He wants to make you
           believe we're all going to run
           away and then he thinks you'll
           hire an overseer to watch us. He
           believes you are soft soap. He's
           given to such talk. I believe
           he's just made this story out of
           whole cloth, 'cause he wants to
           get a situation. It's all a lie,
           master, you may depend on't. It's
           all a lie.
           For a tense moment we are unsure which way Epps'll go.
           Increasingly it become apparent that, shallow minded and
           equally soused, Solomon has been able to fold Epps's
           thoughts. In a low curse that clearly states his ill
           intentions.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          102.

                         153 CONTINUED: (3) 153
           Revealed is a pocket knife, which all through the
           conversation, unknown to us the audience, was pushed up
           against Solomon's stomach. As Epps speaks, he closes it
           and taps it on Solomon's shoulder.

                          EPPS
           I'm damned. I'll be god... Were
           he not free and white, Platt.
           Were he not free and white.
           Epps heads off. Solomon is left to exhale a deep breath.

                         

                         154 154

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/WOODS - NIGHT

           Having found a lonely spot, Solomon has struck a SMALL
           FIRE. He has in his hand his letter. With no ceremony,
           he casts the letter upon the flames and watches it burn.
           And with it, at this time, seems all chance of him ever
           being free. He stands and looks at it as if forever, as
           ashes descend into the night sky.

           FADE TO BLACK.

                         

                         A155 A155

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - DAY


           -MARCH, 1852-
           The slaves are now employed working on an extension to
           the Great House. The slaves work under the direction of
           MR. SAMUEL BASS, a between forty and fifty years old, of
           light complexion and light hair. He is cool and self-
           possessed, fond of argument, but always speaking with
           extreme deliberation as well as a Canadian accent.

                         

                         B155 B155

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE - DAY

           As the slaves continue to work, there is a conversation
           going on between Epps and Bass. Bass much skilled in the
           art of sophistry, while Epps's arguments are fueled
           mostly by emotion alone. Though at first Epps does
           little more than joke his way around the facts.
           Solomon, working still, can't help but overhear as Epps
           offers Bass a drink, which Bass waves away.

                          EPPS
           Take it. You look unsettled.

                          BASS
           I'm well.

                          EPPS
           No shame in taking respite from
           the heat; drink, shade. It's
           ungodly for travelers. Hearty, or
           otherwise.

                          (CONTINUED)

          102A.

          B155 CONTINUED: B155
           Bass gives a laugh.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           I meant no joke.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          103.

          B155 CONTINUED: (2) B155

                          BASS
           Your humor is inadvertent.
           Sensing perhaps Bass's laughter might be at his expense,
           Epps presses.

                          EPPS
           Then share what's funny. Or what
           ills you.

                          BASS
           I'm here to complete the work at
           hand. As requested, and as paid.

                          EPPS
           Something rubs you wrongly.
           Before I take further offense, I
           offer you the opportunity to speak
           on it.

                          BASS
           You ask plainly, I will tell you
           plainly. What I find amusing: You
           worry about my well being in the
           heat but, quite frankly, the
           condition of your laborers--

                          EPPS
           "The condition of my..." What in
           the hell are you--

                          BASS
           It is horrid. It's all wrong.
           All wrong, sir.

                          EPPS
           They ain't hired help. They're my
           slaves.

                          BASS
           You say that with pride.

                          EPPS
           I say it as fact.

                          BASS
           If the conversation concerns what
           is factual and what is not;
           there's no justice nor
           righteousness in slavery. I
           wouldn't own a slave if I was rich
           as Croesus, which I am not, as is
           perfectly well understood. More
           particularly among my creditors.
           There's another humbug: the credit
           system. Humbug, sir. No credit,
           no debt. Credit leads a man into
           temptation. Cash down is the only
           thing that will deliver him from

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          104.

          B155 CONTINUED: (3) B155

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           evil. But this question of
           slavery; what right have you to
           your niggers when you come down to
           the point?

                          EPPS
           What right? I bought 'em. I paid
           for 'em.

                          BASS
           Of course you did. The law says
           you have the right to hold a
           nigger, but begging the law's
           pardon...it lies. Is everything
           right because the law allows it?
           Suppose they'd pass a law taking
           away your liberty and making you a
           slave?

                          EPPS
           Ha!

                          BASS
           Suppose.

                          EPPS
           That ain't a supposable case.

                          BASS
           Because the law states that your
           liberties are undeniable? Because
           society deems it so? Laws change.
           Social systems crumble. Universal
           truths are constant. It is a
           fact, it is a plain fact that what
           is true and right is true and
           right for all. White and black
           alike.

                          EPPS
           Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yah compare me
           to a nigger, Bass? Yah might as
           well ask what the difference is
           between a white man and a baboon.
           Now, I seen one of them critters
           in Orleans that knowed just as
           much as any nigger I got. Yah'd
           call them fellers citizens, I
           s'pose?

                          BASS
           Look here; you can't laugh me down
           in that way. These niggers are
           human beings. If they are allowed
           to scale no higher than brute
           animals, you and men like you will
           have to answer for it. There's an

                          ILL--

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          105.

          B155 CONTINUED: (4) B155

                          EPPS
           Ahhh!

                          BASS
           A fearful ill, resting on this

                          NATION--

                          EPPS
           You betray yourself a foreigner!

                          BASS
           That will not go unpunished
           forever. There will be a
           reckoning yet.

                          EPPS
           You like to hear yourself talk,
           Bass, better than any man I know
           of. Yah'd argue that black was
           white, or white black if anybody
           would contradict you. A fine
           supposition if yah lived among
           Yankees in New England. But yah
           don't.

                          (POINTED)
           You most assuredly do not.

                         

                         155 155

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION - DAY

           It's the Sabbath. The slaves are left to themselves to
           do their own chores. At the moment the female slaves are
           washing their clothes in large cauldrons, slapping their
           clothes against washing boards and hanging them up to dry
           near to their living quarters behind the plantation. It
           is a sight of ritual. Missing from the field of labor is
           Patsey, for whom Epps hollers.

                          EPPS
           Patsey... Patsey!
           A drunk Epps asks of the slaves:

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Where is she? Where is Patsey?
           No one answers.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Talk, Damn you!

                          PHEBE
           We know nothin' of her, Massa.

                          EPPS
           The hell you don't! You know
           where she is! She run off, ain't
           she? She's escaped, and you
           miserable black dogs stand like

                          (MORE)

                          (CONTINUED)

          106.

                         155 CONTINUED: 155

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           the deef and dumb. Speak! Speak!
           Not a word spoken.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           My best cotton picking nigger! My
           best.
           A beat.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           I'd give yah all up for her.
           Where she gone?
           The slaves say nothing. There is nothing for them to
           say. They don't know where she is. Eventually Epps
           drops into true sorrow.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           She gone... My Pats gone.

                         

                         156 156

           EXT. EPPS'S PLANTATION - LATER

           Epps sits on the piazza looking quite forlorn. He looks
           up only to see PATSEY RETURNING TO THE PLANTATION. Epps
           steps up to greet her, with anger rather than relief.
           As they hear his angry voice, the slaves step around from
           where they are hanging their laundry to dry. Treach is
           near as well.

                          EPPS
           Run off. Run off, did you?

                          PATSEY

                          MASSA EPPS--

                          EPPS
           You miserable wench! Where you
           been?

                          PATSEY
           I been nowhere.

                          EPPS
           Lies to your misdeeds!

                          PATSEY
           The Sabbath day, Massa. I took me
           a walk to commune wit da Lord.

                          EPPS
           Bring the Lord into yer
           deceptions? Yah Godless...
           Shaw's. Comin' from Shaw's
           plantation weren't yah?

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          106A.

                         156 CONTINUED: 156

                          PATSEY
           ...No...

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          107.

                         156 CONTINUED: (2) 156

                          EPPS
           Yah took yerself ta pleasure Shaw.
           Yah gave baser passion to that
           unblushin' libertine!
           Solomon tries to intervene:

                          SOLOMON

                          MASTER EPPS--

                          EPPS
           Now yah speak? Now that yah want
           to add to 'er lies yah find yer
           tongue.
           Epps goes to strike Solomon, but Patsey pulls his arm
           back.

                          PATSEY
           Do not strike him. I went to
           Massa Shaw's plantation!

                          EPPS
           Yah admit it.

                          PATSEY
           Freely. And you know why.
           Patsey takes soap from the pocket of her dress.

                          PATSEY (CONT'D)
           I got this from Mistress Shaw.
           Mistress Epps won't even grant me
           no soap ta clean with. Stink so
           much I make myself gag. Five
           hundred pounds 'a cotton day in,
           day out. More than any man here.
           And 'fo that I will be clean; that
           all I ax. Dis here what I went to
           Shaw's 'fo.

                          EPPS
           You lie...

                          PATSEY
           The Lord knows that's all.

                          EPPS
           You lie!

                          PATSEY
           And you blind wit yer own
           covetousness. I don't lie, Massa.
           If you kill me, I'll stick ta
           that.

                          EPPS
           I'll learn you to go to Shaw's.
           Treach, go get some line.

                          (CONTINUED)

          108.

                         156 CONTINUED: (3) 156
           Treach runs quickly to the tool shed. In short order he
           returns with the rope in hand.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Strip her. Strike her bare 'n
           lash her to the post.
           Mistress Epps has now come from the Great House. She
           gazes on the scene with an air of heartless satisfaction.
           Now tied to the post, Epps stands behind Patsey with his
           whip.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Yah done this to yerself, Pats!
           Epps hoists the whip to strike, holds it high...but no
           matter his rage, Epps cannot bring himself to deliver the
           blow. He looks to Mistress Epps who now stands gloating
           and spurring him on.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           Do it! Strike the life from her.
           Epps again hoists the whip. It trembles in his hand
           ahead of the act... But he does not have it in him to
           deliver such a beating. Turning to Solomon, thrusting
           the whip at him:

                          EPPS
           Beat her.
           Solomon doesn't move. Epps shoves the whip into his
           hand.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Give her the whip. Give it all to
           her!
           Patsey, begging to Solomon:

                          PATSEY
           I'd rather it you, Platt.

                          EPPS
           Strike her, or yah'll get the
           same!

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          109.

                         156 CONTINUED: (4) 156
           Solomon takes a step back. He unfurls the whip... He
           begins to whip Patsey. Lash after lash, Patsey squirms
           before it. Epps eyes fill with tears, he is nearly too
           distraught to watch.
           But the Mistress... She is not satisfied with Solomon's
           half-hearted effort.

                          MISTRESS EPPS
           He pantomimes. There ain't barely
           a welt on her. That's what your
           niggers make of yah; a fool fer
           the takin'.
           Epps's grief is replaced by fury. EPPS GRABS THE PISTOL
           FROM TREACH'S HOLSTER and draws down on the slaves.

                          EPPS
           Yah will strike her. Yah will
           strike her until her flesh is rent
           and meat and blood flow equal, or
           I will kill every nigger in my
           sight!
           Solomon can't strike a blow, even if it means his life.
           But from the ground, from Patsey:

                          PATSEY
           Do it, Platt. Don't stop until I
           am dead.
           What else can he do? Solomon begins to whip, to truly
           whip Patsey. Her back welts, then tears... Patsey
           screams in agony. Solomon strikes again and again...
           After a full thirty lashes Solomon looks to Epps, who is
           not satisfied.

                          EPPS
           Until I say no more! I ain't said
           nothing!
           Solomon strikes another ten to fifteen times. By now, as
           promised, Patsey's back has been reduced to LITTLE MORE

           THAN TORN MEAT AND BLOOD.
           Finally, Solomon holds low the whip. He can and will do
           no more.

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Strike her! Strike her!
           Solomon will not. Epps takes up the whip and whips
           Patsey with "ten fold" greater force than he had. The
           painfully loud and angry curses of Epps load the air.
           Patsey by now is terribly lacerated, literally flayed.
           The lash wet with blood which flowed down her sides and
           dropped upon the ground. At length Patsey ceases
           struggling. Her head sinks listlessly on the ground.

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          110.

                         156 CONTINUED: (5) 156
           Her screams and supplications gradually decrease and die
           away into a low moan. It would seem that she was dying.
           Solomon, screaming at Epps:

                          SOLOMON
           Thou devil! Sooner or later,
           somewhere in the course of eternal
           justice thou shalt answer for this
           sin!
           Though Epps fronts rage, there should be underlying
           anguish for what he has done to his beloved Pats.

                          EPPS
           No sin! There is no sin! A man
           does how he pleases with his
           property. At the moment, Platt, I
           am of great pleasure. You be
           goddamn careful I don't come to
           wantin' to lightenin' my mood no
           further.
           By contrast to this horror, the field of cotton smiles in
           the warm sunlight. The birds chirp merrily amidst the
           foliage of the tress. Peace and happiness seems to reign
           everywhere.
           Everywhere else.
           Epps leaves Patsey to herself. He says not a word to the
           Mistress as he passes. The Mistress herself heads back
           into the house.
           Solomon unties Patsey, lifts her and takes her to the
           cabin.

                         

                         157 157

           INT. CABIN - LATER

           Patsey is laid on some boards where she remains for a
           long time with eyes closed and groaning in agony. Phebe
           applies melted tallow to her wounds, and all try to
           assist and console her.
           In time Patsey opens her eyes. She looks to Solomon.
           She does not say a word. She just looks at him...and
           then her eyes close again.

                         

                         158 158

           MOVED TO A155

                         

          159 MOVED TO B155 159

          111.

                         

                         

          160 INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/GREAT HOUSE/ADDITION - 160


                          EVENING

           -APRIL, 1852-
           Solomon and Bass are working together alone on the
           extension. From the amount of work that's been done on
           it, it should be obvious that days have now passed.
           Solomon makes a cautious approach to Bass. As casually
           as he can he inquires:

                          SOLOMON
           Master Bass, I want to ask you
           what part of the country you came
           from?

                          BASS
           No part of this land. I was born
           in Canada. Now guess where that
           is.

                          SOLOMON
           Oh, I know where Canada is. I
           have been there myself.

                          BASS
           Have you?

                          SOLOMON
           Montreal and Kingston and
           Queenston and a great many places.
           And I have been in York state,
           too. Buffalo and Rochester and
           Albany, and can tell you the names
           of the villages on the Erie canal
           and the Champlain canal.
           Bass gives Solomon a long and curious stare.

                          BASS
           Well traveled for a slave. How
           came you here?

                          SOLOMON
           Master Bass, if justice had been
           done I never would have been here.

                          BASS
           How's this? Tell me all about it.

                          SOLOMON
           I am afraid to tell you, though I
           don't believe you would tell
           Master Epps if I should.

                          BASS
           Every word you speak is a profound
           secret.

                          (CONTINUED)

          112-115.

                         160 CONTINUED: 160
           Solomon holds a moment. Hasn't he heard the same promise
           before? Prior to Solomon stating his case, WE FADE TO:

                         

          161 INT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION / ADDITION - DAY 161

           Hours have passed. Bass reflects on the story that Epps
           has told in the intervening.

                          BASS
           How many years all told?

                          SOLOMON
           Just nearly...just passed eleven.

                          BASS
           Your story is...it is amazing, and
           in no good way.

                          SOLOMON
           Do you believe, sir, in justice as
           you have said?

                          BASS
           I do.

                          SOLOMON
           That slavery is an evil that
           should befall none?

                          BASS
           I believe so.

                          SOLOMON
           If you truly do, I would ask...I
           would beg that you write my
           friends in the north, acquainting
           them with my situation and
           beseeching them to forward free
           papers, or take such steps as they
           might consider proper to secure my
           release.
           Bass looks at Solomon, holding his gaze for more than a
           prolonged beat.

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           My daughter Margaret is possibly
           now 19 and my son Alonzo, 16. I
           miss them so. It would be an
           unspeakable happiness to clasp my
           wife and my family again.
           Bass hands Solomon an end of a long plank of wood and
           looks over his shoulder, as if to camouflage the
           conversation by work. They both lift it toward the
           floorboards. Finally Bass speaks.

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

           116.

                         161 CONTINUED: 161

                          BASS
           I have always forgone
           relationships and family. I did
           once have a sweetheart who I loved
           deeply.
           Bass points to a measuring tool, which Solomon
           immediately hands over.

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           But that was a long, long time
           ago. I've been traveling this
           country for the best part of
           twenty years. My freedom is
           everything. The fact that I can
           walk out of here tomorrow gives me
           most pleasure. I see the aching in
           your eyes, the pain of not being
           attached to your loved ones. My
           life doesn't mean much to anyone,
           but it seems your life means a lot
           to a lot of people. What you have
           just said to me scares me, and I
           must say, sir, I am afraid. Not
           just for you, but for me.
           They continue working, fixing the floorboards in unison.
           Solomon, slightly confused.

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           I will write your letter sir, for
           if I could bring freedom to you,
           it will be more than a pleasure.
           It will be a duty. Now, would you
           be so kind as to pass me those
           nails, sir.
           We pull back to reveal the two men dwarfed by the
           unfinished structure. They continue to work, as if the
           conversation had never occurred.

                         

                         162 162

                          OMIT

                         

                         163 OMIT 163

                         

                         164 OMIT 164

                         

          A165 EXT. SWAMP TBD A165

           Solomon walks a path he has walked a thousand times or
           more on his way back from Bartholomew's - sack familiarly
           slung over his right shoulder. Drearily he walks. His
           eyes acknowledge something we yet cannot see to his left.
           Almost simultaneously, his eyes retract back to the path

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          116A.

          A165 CONTINUED: A165
           towards Epps'. As he passes out of shot, the evidence of
           what he was looking at is revealed.
           FEET hang at the top right hand corner of the frame. A
           woman, who has been lynched.

                         

                         165 165

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/ADDITION - DAY


           -SEPTEMBER, 1852-

                          SLOW DISSOLVE
           To a now virtually complete, half-painted white gazebo.
           Slaves continue to work on it. As they do so, Bass peels
           away from the structure to have an overview. He beckons
           Solomon toward him, out of earshot from the slaves who
           are continuing to work on the gazebo. As Solomon
           approaches, Bass shouts-

                          BASS
           And bring those markers!
           Solomon gathers a clutch of markers in his hands and
           approaches Bass.

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           No letter yet.

                          SOLOMON
           You are certain?
           Bass takes a marker from Solomon and slides it into the
           earth.

                          BASS
           I have inquired thoroughly. More
           than is safe for either of us.
           Bass takes another and pokes it into the ground,
           improvising a pathway towards the gazebo.

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           Solomon...I have a job or two on
           hand which will be completed
           shortly... The work here has
           grown sparse.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          117.

                         165 CONTINUED: 165
           Bass doesn't need to spell things out for Solomon.
           Solomon's understanding of the finality of the situation
           should be very clear.

                          BASS (CONT'D)
           You must know, wherever I am I
           will press your cause.

                          SOLOMON
           Five months. On top of these
           years. No cause remains.

                          BASS
           If there is any chance...

                          SOLOMON
           Mr. Bass...

                          BASS
           I will continue to write your

                          PEOPLE--

                          SOLOMON
           Go home knowing you have tried.
           The weight of defeat should hang very heavily with both
           men. Nothing more to do, nothing more to say BASS TAKES

           SOLOMON'S HAND, GRIPS IT FIRMLY, BUT LOW AND
           SURREPTITIOUSLY knowing full well he cannot be seen
           making contact with a slave. But in the strength of
           their collective grip, in the emotion in which they hold
           each other's eyes, we should be able to easily see how
           greatly Bass wanted to be able to help Solomon. Equally,
           we can see the depth of regard Solomon has for Bass. The
           moment is made all the more powerful by the fact neither
           man can openly speak his regret or thanks. A moment
           longer, and then Bass releases his grip and makes his
           way marching toward the gazebo, pointing instructions.
           Solomon is left, markers in hand, alone.

                         

                         166 166

                          OMIT

                         

                         167 OMIT 167

          118.

                         

                         

          A168 EXT. ROAD BY EPPS' PLANTATION - EVENING A168

           Solomon sits on a secluded part of the road, fiddle in
           hand. He stares across the expanse. His eyes fixed on
           something that is a million miles away.
           Slowly Solomon tunes his fiddle, turning the tuning peg
           tighter and tighter. As the strings are taut, the sound
           is almost unbearable as Solomon tightens bit by bit, as
           if bones are being cracked one by one. Just beyond the
           breaking point of sound, there is a snap.
           He then repeats the action.
           Solomon holds the neck of the violin. Sliding his thumb
           and forefinger down the neck, he methodically cracks it
           at the base. He carefully snaps the neck and removes it
           from the body, then snaps it in two, placing it on the
           ground.
           He then starts on the body. Heaving it on the ground, it
           falls apart. Methodically he breaks the violin into small
           bits - silencing the instrument with a hushed display of
           violence, rather than aggressive. Seems almost to be, in
           an odd way, respectful.

                         

                         168 168

           EXT. MASTER EPPS'S PLANTATION/FIELD - DAY


           -FEBRUARY, 1853-
           The Slaves are sewing the heavily plowed field, making
           their way in the trying soil. Solomon, too focused to
           note the arrival of two men by carriage: Parker and the

           SHERIFF.
           While the Sheriff makes his way to the field, Parker
           remains with the carriage. The Sheriff calls:

                          SHERIFF
           Platt...? Where is the boy called
           Platt?

                          SOLOMON
           ...Sir...
           The Sheriff crosses to him.

                          SHERIFF
           Your name is Platt, is it?

                          SOLOMON
           Yes, sir.
           Pointing off to the distance.

                          SHERIFF
           Do you know that man?

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          118A.

                         168 CONTINUED: 168
           Solomon looks toward the carriage. He has to shield his
           eyes from the sun. Recognition is slow coming to him.
           But when it does, it hits him as a rush.

                          SOLOMON
           Mr. Parker...?

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          119.

                         168 CONTINUED: (2) 168
           Solomon starts for Parker, but he is pulled back by the
           Sheriff who is keen to determine Solomon's true identity.

                          SHERIFF
           Say again?

                          SOLOMON
           Mr. Parker?
           As he does, Epps makes his way over.

                          SHERIFF
           That man received a letter
           compiling many accusations. You
           look me in the eye and on your
           life answer me truthfully: have
           you any other name than Platt?

                          SOLOMON
           Solomon Northup is my name.

                          EPPS
           Sheriff...

                          SHERIFF
           Have you a family?

                          EPPS
           What's all this?

                          SHERIFF
           It's official business.

                          EPPS
           My nigger, my business.

                          SHERIFF
           Your business waits.

                          (TO SOLOMON)
           Tell me of your family.

                          SOLOMON
           I have a wife and two children.

                          SHERIFF
           What were your children's names?

                          SOLOMON
           Margaret and Alonzo.

                          SHERIFF
           And your wife's name before her
           marriage?

                          SOLOMON
           Anne Hampton. I am who I say.
           Solomon pushes past the sheriff. As Solomon moves toward
           Parker, his pace quickens with each step until his

                          (CONTINUED)

          119A.

                         168 CONTINUED: (3) 168
           personal velocity has him nearly at a dead run. The two
           old friends make contact with each other, wrap each other
           in a long and emotional embrace. It if finally broken by
           Epps, who has moved over with the Sheriff.

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          120.

                         168 CONTINUED: (4) 168

                          EPPS
           Nah... You will unhand 'em.
           Platt is my nigger!

                          PARKER
           He is Solomon Northup.

                          EPPS
           You say...

                          PARKER
           He belongs to no man.

                          EPPS
           You say! You come here,
           unfamiliar to me, and make claims.

                          SHERIFF
           Not claims. I have no doubts.
           This is Solomon Northup, a
           resident of Saratoga Springs, NY.

                          EPPS
           To hell with that! My nigger, and
           I'll fight you for 'em!

                          PARKER
           As is your right. As it will be
           my pleasure to bankrupt you in the
           courts. Your decision.
           By this time, the slaves in the plantation have overcome
           their fear of penalty, and left their work and gathered
           in the yard as witnesses. They stand behind the cabin,
           out of sight of Epps.
           Mistress Epps also bears witness, standing on the veranda
           next to her house slave. Her face is of a strange mixed
           emotion.
           Epps looks to Solomon. Solomon icily, stoically holds
           his ground. He makes it quite clear in his countenance
           that nobody owns him. Sheriff, hand on his gun, is there
           to back Solomon up. Epps, with no other recourse than to

                          BACK DOWN:

                          EPPS
           You think this is the last you'll
           see of me, boy? It ain't.

                          (TO PARKER)
           Whatever paper you hold about his
           freedom, it don't mean naught. He
           is my nigger - and I will have my
           day in court, sir. As God as my
           witness, I will have my day in
           court. Take 'em!
           Epps calls to Bob-

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          120A.

                         168 CONTINUED: (5) 168

                          EPPS (CONT'D)
           Saddle my horse! And bring her up
           here.
           Epps walks back into the plantation.
           The trio starts for the carriage. Solomon is pulled back
           by the call of Patsey's voice:

                          PATSEY
           Platt...
           Disregarding Parker, Solomon crosses over to Patsey.
           Under the circumstances, neither really knows how to
           engage. Finally, suddenly, Patsey throws her arms around
           Solomon and they embrace.
           Epps, now mounted on his horse, witness the encounter.
           Kicking the stirrups hard into the sides of the horse, he
           rides off furiously.
           Calling from the carriage, mindful of Epps:

                          PARKER
           Solomon...if we know what's wise,
           we should depart.
           A moment longer Solomon and Patsey hold each other. They
           separate, Solomon heading back to the carriage. He and
           Parker alight. The Sheriff chides the horses and they

                         

                         

                         

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          121.

                         168 CONTINUED: (6) 168
           start up. As they move on, Patsey sinks down to the
           ground, where she remains in a weary and half-reclining
           state, the other slaves around her.
           WE STAY WITH Solomon as he travels further and further
           from the slaves - who are diminished by distance.
           Solomon waves a hand to them, but the carriage rounds a
           bend and a thicket of trees hides them from his eyes
           forever more.

                          BLACK

                         

                         A169 A169

           EXT. NORTHUP HOUSE - DAY


           -MARCH, 1853-
           We now see Solomon in front of a door. A door we have
           seen before at the very beginning of our story. Solomon,
           aged significantly since then, stands nervously,
           swallowing, and adjusting his attire. He breaths in and
           holds his breath. He blows out and closes his eyes. A
           tear falls from his cheek, but this is not the way he
           wants his family to see him. He gathers himself, and
           looks to his right. There stands Mr. Parker. He places
           his hand on Solomon's shoulder. He says gently-

                          PARKER
           Are you ready?
           Solomon swallows and nods.

                         

                         169 169

           INT. NORTHUP HOUSE - LATER

           THE DOOR TO THE ROOM OPENS. Mr. Parker enters, Solomon
           behind. We first see Anne, in her finest attire; the
           Northup children: Alonzo, who is now seventeen and
           Margaret who is now twenty - SHE CARRIES WITH HER A
           BUNDLE. Also present is MARGARET'S HUSBAND. The family
           waits patiently, dutifully...but anxiously.
           Anne rises to greet him, but holds back. All around, the
           body language of the family is stiff and awkward. They
           are, after all - after twelve years - little more than
           familiar strangers.

                          SOLOMON
           I apologize for my appearance. I
           have had a difficult time of
           things these past many years.
           Solomon looks among his family; trying to recall them as
           much as they look to see familiarity within him. To his

                          CHILDREN:

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Alonzo... Margaret, yes? You do
           not recognize me, do you? Do

                          (MORE) (CONTINUED)

          122.

                         169 CONTINUED: 169

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           you...do you even remember the
           last time we saw each other? I
           put you on a carriage with your
           mother...
           Margaret, tearing, hugs her father. Solomon almost
           breaks, but he keeps himself together. Looking to the

                          UNKNOWN MAN:

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           And who is this?

                          MARGARET
           He is my husband.

                          SOLOMON
           Husband?

                          MARGARET'S HUSBAND
           It is very good to meet you, sir.

                          SOLOMON
           We have much acquainting to do.
           Margaret rises, she presents her bundle to her father.

                          MARGARET
           And this is your grandson.
           Solomon Northup Staunton.

                          SOLOMON
           ...Solomon...
           The fact his grandson carries his name, is overwhelming.
           Solomon breaks down. Emotionally, physically... But
           ANNE IS THERE TO CATCH HIM. As she holds him, Solomon
           says to Anne with all his heart:

                          SOLOMON (CONT'D)
           Forgive me.

                          ANNE
           There is nothing to forgive.
           The pair, joined now by the whole family, hold on to each
           other for life...and one would think for all the rest of
           their lives.

                          FADE TO:

                          BLACK

                          CARD:
           Upon gaining his freedom, Solomon Northup located and
           attempted to seek legal justice against the men who
           kidnapped him. The case was tried in Washington, DC
           where blacks were prohibited by law from testifying

                         

                          (CONTINUED)

          123.

                         169 CONTINUED: (2) 169
           against whites. The charges against the kidnappers were
           eventually dismissed.
           Northup spent the rest of his life working as an
           abolitionist, and with the Underground Railroad.
           Solomon Northup most likely died between 1863 and 1875.
           The exact date, place, and circumstances of his death
           remain unknown.

           - END -


12 Years a Slave



Writers :   John Ridley
Genres :   Drama


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