Rhetorical Analysis of the film Slavery by Another Name

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Rhetorical Analysis of the film Slavery by Another Name

The film Slavery by Another Name, written by Sheila Curran-Bernard and produced by Allan and Douglas Blackmon, is a powerful and informative film regarding slavery in the South even after the declaration of freedom. The film shares the white man’s injustices subjected to African Americans as enslaved people. It sheds light on the brutality and inhuman treatment black people faced at the hands of the white man through the lost stories of slaves and their descendants in the South during their journey after the emancipation proclamation and how they were drawn back into involuntary servitude. The director of the film uses various film-making strategies to convey the intended message properly, connect with the audience uniquely and make the film as relatable and comprehensive as possible. This paper will discuss the strategies employed by the director in making the film to capture the attention of his audience and reach their emotions.

The director kicks off the movie with a narrator giving a back story of the slavery activities in the South. The narrator uses a deep and assertive tone as he narrates these ordeals. He talks about how African Americans lived in a straightforward exploitative system led by white people. They were forced to provide hard labor against their will at zero cost. They were treated like animals, tied with chains, denied good food, clothed in jail-like attire, especially men, tortured, and at extreme points murdered for failing to satisfy the white man and his family. The laws passed and implemented by the white leaders targeted black people and aimed to bring them down and belittle them. Additionally, black people were denied access to mechanisms of achieving wealth for themselves and progressing like other citizens of America. They lacked the free will to benefit from their hard work in terms of wages and business.

The film director uses different camera ranges to portray specific messages in different scenes. He uses a close-up shot for scenes where speakers narrate their takes on involuntary servitude black people were subjected to by their oppressors in the South. The close-up shot is used when Khalil Muhammad, a historian, explains how slavery was overturned and black people could enjoy the fruits of their labor like white people. He aims to help viewers identify Muhammad as a character in the scene and communicate their emotions as he narrates his share of the story. The reaction shot has been used to help the audience understand the characters’ actions and consequent reactions. It guides the audience in passing a negative or positive judgment of the character reacting as far as their reaction and role in the film are concerned. A black woman cries and pleads to the oppressor to release her brother, cuffed in chains, yet he has done nothing wrong. These reactions shot in this scene guides the audience in passing a negative or positive judgment of the character reacting as far as their reaction and role in the film are concerned

The director uses soft, somber music as he shows pictures of slaves in brutal and disturbing situations. For instance, heavy chains on both the legs and arms, black people in plantation firms, and black people hanging from ropes after being hanged by the white man as the narrator explain how black people were subjected to white people’s oppression. The video then transitions smoothly to the speech of slaves, the descendants of slaves, and other speakers in the film who provide more information about slavery in the South at that time.

Dramatic irony is also utilized in the film to sustain the audience’s interest and create anticipation when the characters learn what the audience is already aware of. Despite the progress made in abolishing slavery, black people were involuntarily forced to offer labor to the white man, which makes no difference from the slavery times. The film shows black people with working equipment and a white man supervising them with a gun on his shoulders to show the irony and the failed expectations for a black man in the new era.

The director uses diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to capture the audience’s attention and emotions. He amplifies the diegetic sound of a judge pounding on the desk with the hammer while addressing how the federal government conducted their investigations and arrested the Cosbys when they pleaded guilty to subjecting black people to slavery. In the film, Barbra Belisle, a descendant, and speaker narrate how black people were picked and thrown into the system, while scenes of a black man escorted by the police and handcuffed are displayed simultaneously.


Undoubtedly, the film is captivating and educative altogether. The choice of words by the director and the different rhetorical strategies employed in the film made it a success and conveyed his message in the best possible way. The ill-treatment and brutality forced on black people are apparent because the film drew the audience’s emotions and connected with them throughout the film. The desire for freedom by black people was justified because they had gone through a lot of torture and suffering at the hands of the black man.


Blackmon, Douglas. Slavery By Another Name. 2012.

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