It seems fitting that the day Denver Arts Week opens (Friday), so does one of the top films of 2013. “12 Years a Slave” is a searing true story that may not be comfortable to watch, but is necessary to see.

We often say that art is life, expressed, but in the case of this film, art becomes life, endured, all in the hopes of salvation.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrup in "12 Years a Slave." (credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northrup in “12 Years a Slave.” (credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Solomon Northrup was a free man in upstate New York in 1841. He was tricked into traveling to Washington where he was kidnapped, shipped south and sold into slavery in New Orleans. He spent the next twelve years working, waiting, trying desperately to survive, enduring the unimaginable, all the while trying, at the risk of his life, to get word to his family in order to re-secure his freedom.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is magnificent as Solomon, using his wits in a raw struggle to survive, while somehow still maintaining his sense of humanity. This is Ejiofor’s film. It is Solomon’s story. The images that are shown, the stories that are told, can be savagely unforgettable.

“12 Years a Slave” is unflinching, captivating and brutal. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, or my heart out of the story.

I still feel it now.

Rated R for what can only be called harsh reality, “12 Years a Slave” is a must see movie — and — one that is easily in line for Best Picture of the Year.

“12 Years a Slave” opens Nov. 1, exclusively, at the Landmark Mayan Theatre on South Broadway in Denver.

The beauty of Denver Arts Week and films like this, are that they remind us that the arts are not always pretty, not always beautiful, not always designed to soothe the soul. Sometimes, the arts are angry, accusing and confrontational. They are that, simply because, that’s life – and life is what the arts express and explore on their most basic level.

– Greg Moody is CBS4’s Critic At Large. His reports on CBS4 News are featured on the Entertainment section.

– Also, don’t miss Moody’s entertaining bio, his Top Spots in Denver lists, and his frequently updated Moody’s Picks page.