Harriet Tubman is one of the most iconic women in history, and definitely was a living Statue of Liberty in her time freeing dozens of slaves. Flash forward to present day and you cannot speak on annals of American History, especially Black History, without her name coming to forefront. Thus, it is no surprise an epic biopic, Harriet, is soon to be in theaters everywhere all thanks to the hard work and vision of one woman and director, Kasi Lemmons!
Harriet is Kasi’s latest project and may very well be her greatest one to date. The film is beautifully filmed as it retells Harriet’s story firsthand with the acting skills of Cynthia Erivo. Harriet is born enslaved on a plantation in Maryland in 1822, where she alongside her mother, brothers, and only sister plead for their freedom from their master due to a clause left his father’s will. Their master refuses and is “cursed” by Harriet, coincidentally dying in his sleep that night. Her new, younger master blames her for his father’s death and inheriting the debt he left behind. He coldly decides to sell Harriet and her brothers to traders headed to the Deep South, a place where freedom or escaping is virtually impossible. Harriet, determined to be free, and have her own future children born free flees! Using nature and navigating her way to Philadelphia via The North Star she makes a new life for herself. However, Harriet is even more determined to liberate her family prompting a daring rescue attempt that transforms her from a simple runaway slave fueled by superstition to the legend we know and idolize. “Harriet was just that amazing of a woman, of a person! Here is this small-framed woman barely above five feet tall going to war with slave traders and owners to liberate others. She was remarkable and a true American legend.”
Kasi opted to direct Harriet but admitted the was intimidated by the project initially. “When you’re telling the story of the life of someone like her [Harriet] you really want to get it right and give the story your all–the justice it deserved. There’s a lot of research involved, narratives, understanding her spirituality, and knowing you need to accurately show people the real might and power of this person.” Part of accurately portraying Tubman was definitely in the casting as Cynthia Erivo was controversially cast in the titular role. “To me it just made sense. She has her [Harriet’s] build and Cynthia is just a powerful actress. She’s also very athletic, as you can see in ‘Widows.’ This particular role required a lot of running, jumping, climbing, and even wading through rivers in some pretty restrictive clothing due to the time period the film is set in…If you’ve seen her in ‘The Color Purple,’ you know she can give you an array of emotions and really move an audience. So casting her was pretty simple to me…”
Cynthia did an exceptional job resurrecting Harriet Tubman, just as the film did an even more amazing job of showing the skills and techniques–both learned and divine–to stay safe and alive while liberating others. The scenes where Harriet has her “dizzy spells” (periods of hypersomnia when she would lose consciousness, a side effect of having suffered a traumatic injury when an angry slave owner threw and accidentally hit her with a heavy metal weight intended for another slave), are shown as times when she was directly communicating with God through dreams, many of which seemed to be precognitive and clairvoyant. In grade school many children are just taught she would periodically pass out. “There’s a ton of scholarly work explaining what happened with her during these spells. She was a very spiritually inclined woman and whatever was going on during those times worked in her favor as it gave her an almost sixth sense with the information she acquired from them.” Besides her spells, Harriet knew to use the rivers, stars, forests, and a shotgun as weapons in her crusade. “Nature was very much on her side and she grew to know the areas like the back of her hand, and became a great shooter. She could literally do it all. I want to say she’s our first superhero.”
Kasi Lemmons, Director of “Harriet” 2019.
CREDIT: CAITLIN CRONENBERG FOR VARIETY
Harriet will be the film to see of 2019 and is already crawling with Oscar buzz. We compel all of you to see the narrative of a true American hero and freedom fighter. Trust us, Storm of X-Men has got nothing on her! You can catch Harriet in theaters everywhere this Friday!
Special thanks to Kontrol Magazine!