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Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Steven Rodney McQueen was born in London, England in 1969. His parents hailed from the West Indies and McQueen grew up in a working class background, displaying a keen interest in soccer. Upon finishing his secondary education, McQueen attended Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, The Chelsea School of Art & Design, and Goldsmith's College. He initially studied painting at the latter institution, but grew fascinated by the artistic possibilities of film, citing exposure to the works of directors like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. He began shooting a series of stylistically grainy, black and white films, and "Bear" (1993), about two naked men going from menacing stances to an intimate clench, served as his degree short at Goldsmith, earning much positive attention as a remarkably confident debut work. McQueen then relocated to New York and studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He left after three months, however, wishing to do more experimental work.Upon returning to England, McQueen created a series of video installations at Britain's Institute of Contemporary Arts, supervising every aspect of the presentations down to the minutest detail. His short, "Deadpan" (1997), a tribute to Buster Keaton's "Steamboat Bill, Jr." (1928) in which McQueen himself recreated the famous Keaton stunt involving a collapsing house, earned him Britain's Turner Prize. In 2002, he was awarded Officer of the Order of the British Empire status for his services to the arts, and the following year, was named the Official War Artist for Iraq. His creation for that project was "Queen and Country" - head shots of fallen British soldiers juxtaposed with Queen Elizabeth II on a series of "art stamps." McQueen hoped to see the stamps put into circulation by the country's Royal Mail service, feeling that they represented an easily accessible, unobtrusive way in which the soldiers' memories could be celebrated but his proposal was rejected.After being approached by Britain's Channel 4 with an invitation to craft a feature film, McQueen took almost five years before finally shooting "Hunger" (2008), which told of the hunger strike staged in 1981 by Irish Republican Army detainees trying to force the reinstatement of their status as political prisoners. The film, which starred up-and-coming actor Michael Fassbender, was widely praised and garnered multiple awards, including the Caméra d'Or at Cannes. It also netted McQueen a BAFTA award for Most Promising Newcomer, one of several Best First Film prizes he won from a variety of international festivals. "Hunger" also features the longest unbroken shot to date in a motion picture: a 17 ½ minute take that was accomplished via the use of special, extra-large magazines of film stock. Following the successful release of "Hunger," McQueen represented Britain in the 2009 Venice Biennale international art exhibition with the short, "Giardini."In 2011, McQueen was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the visual arts, and directed his second feature, "Shame," the story of a handsome New York business executive (Michael Fassbender) who is an insatiable sex addict. Despite all of this intimate contact with other human beings, he still leads an empty, passionless existence devoid of connection, a dilemma he is forced to address when his troubled sister comes to live with him. U.S. distributor Fox Searchlight agreed to release the sometimes explicit film in McQueen's original cut with an NC-17 rating, and it drew very positive notices, with particular praise for Fassbender's daring performance and McQueen's use of long takes to generate a compelling atmosphere.McQueen's next feature was an adaptation of "12 Years A Slave" (2013), a Civil War-era autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped from his New York home and sold as a slave in the pre-war South. An enormous critical success, the film won numerous awards, including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director for McQueen and Best Supporting Actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o.By John Charles
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