Setting of '12 Years a Slave' enjoys post-Oscar popularity
St. James Parish -
Vacherie, Louisiana is home to some of the states most famous surviving plantations. Those who are working to preserve the history at the plantations say tourism to St. James Parish has been on an uptick. One of the reasons, Oscar winning best picture "12 Years A Slave" was filmed there.
After two months of quiet, tour guides at St. Joseph's Plantation are busy again. Visitors from as far away as California, Massachusetts and Florida have taken an interest in the history there. Now, the home next door, Felicite House, is also helping draw in tourists. That's because Felicite House is where much of the Oscar winner was filmed.
"It was great because we got a chance to watch some of the filming, met most of the actors and directors as well," one guide told her group as they walked through the upstairs of St. Joseph's.
"They drive up and say 'I recognize this from the film' or walk around and look for buildings that are not there ... It was a set, it was removed," said Denise Borell, who does marketing for both plantations.
It's true, not everything looks the same. Cotton fields were digitally inserted into the film. A larger cabin and smaller cabin that were constructed as part of the set, are now gone.
Most who come recognize the view of Felicite House from the front. It is where several scenes about Solomon Northup, the film's main character, were shot.
"They chose Felicite because it was raw. Everything was sort of untouched," Borell said.
Borell was also on set while the movie was in production.
The film tells the story of Solomon, who was born a free man in New York and kidnapped in the mid 1840's, as an adult, and sold into slavery. He spent 12 years in a Louisiana cotton field. Felicite House depicts his time on the Epps plantation.
The scene where Patsy, another slave, is whipped was taped behind Felicite House.
Borell says growing up, she knew the story about Solomon's life. But seeing it come to life, before her eyes, was life changing.
"Steve McQueen did an outstanding job telling Solomon's story, but unfortunately you can't get it all on film without it becoming a mini series. So read the book." Borell says she has read it three times: once as a young girl, again in college and recently as a grandmother. She says everytime, she takes away something new.
Now that part of the story is out there, those at St. Joseph's Plantation have noticed more people wanting to see in person, what they saw on film.
"It has brought a lot of attention and we're very grateful for that," said Borell.
Tours of Felicite House are now available on weekends, the grounds had previously been closed. One other note, Felicite House is not the real plantation where Solomon Northup was a slave. The actual plantation is on the grounds of LSU-Alexandria and is now a museum.