The most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, responsible for the freedom of hundreds (arguably thousands) of slaves and well-known by her code name Moses, Harriet Tubman is finally the subject of a feature film in HARRIET, which opened in theaters nationwide last Friday.
Born into slavery as Araminta “Minty” Ross, the film follows Tubman from her young adult life on the plantation, to her daring and physically rigorous escape, to her transformation as an abolitionist and one of the greatest freedom fighters of her time.
Harriet Tubman is one of my favorite she-roes, and I believe her story pretty much scripts itself. But co-writer/director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Talk To Me) and writer Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans, Ali) have both created an admirable version of Tubman’s inspirational true story – highlighting the strength and fierceness of the lead character as a freedom fighter, while focusing on both the losses and gains she suffered as a result.
I believe Grammy and Tony award-winning Cynthia Erivo, despite criticisms some people have expressed of a Black British actress as lead, does a dynamic job portraying the multi-dimensional Tubman – who was a wife, visionary, prophet, war crier (singer) and then some. While chatting with Lemmons, she shared with the media in attendance how Erivo completely immersed herself in character – forgoing ego, and not utilizing a mirror once wardrobe was completed.
With a well-rounded cast, that includes Grammy and Tony award-winner Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), multi-award winning musician/actress Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures), and iconic actors such as Vonde Curtis Hall (Come Sunday, Daredevil) Vanessa Bell Calloway (The Last Fall) and Daphne Reid (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), “Harriet” is a comparably less (brutally) graphic slave narrative than stories I’ve watched in the past (listen below to audio where I speak with Lemmons regarding).
Yet, the story is highly engaging nonetheless. I wanted to loudly applaud several times while viewing, and the film has glorious cinematography – with one scene impressively displaying a gorgeous skyline while Tubman takes her first steps into freedom across the Pennsylvania border (listen to Lemmons’s answer in below audio as I ask her to describe this scene and the rainbow – a sign in the Christian faith of God’s promise/covenant to his children – that formed while filming it).
In sum, even though I felt the movie was a bit sanitized – or maybe made-for-tv-ish at times is a better description – “Harriet” is a solid telling, that will educate a lot of people who may or may not be familiar with its epic protagonist. My hopes is that the film will do well, and Hollywood will see value in bringing more overdue stories to light. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Check out the video below, which includes what legendary actress/songstress Lemmons would bring to the big screen if possible, and get additional info about HARRIET at the official website here.
Until next thought, Thomasena