Most people know the name of Harriet Tubman and how she led many slaves to freedom as a conductor for the Underground Railroad.
The film “Harriet,” directed by Kasi Lemmons and starring Cynthia Erivo, starts with a song to God about one day being free sung by the reverend of Minty (Tubman’s slave name). This is an important exposition because throughout her journey she listens to God through visions and vivid dreams and through these coded songs she leads her people to freedom.
Harriet Tubman is one of the most influential African Americans in history and it’s about time she got a biopic that showed her life justice.
I had heard of Tubman and that she led many slaves to freedom, but I had no idea how she managed to do that all by herself.
The film showcased her trust in God through a cinematic lens, which would seem very difficult to do because her relationship with God was her own, but the director included the audience to look inside her mind and see her visions. She is known for allowing God to speak to her to bring slaves to freedom by knowing where not to go, and how to avoid danger. That is also why the gospel songs strung throughout the film are so important, because she sings about leading them to freedom like Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.
This film is different from many others about slaves and their lives by focusing on how they got out of slavery instead of what they endured while they were in slavery.
This film also highlights an African American woman in slavery using force to get what she needed. She left the plantation by herself with a knife and later swapped that knife for a gun when she went back for her family. Not many films focused on slavery show African Americans defending themselves by using force and weaponry. One example is the scene with her former master. She points her gun at him and eventually shoots him in the hand to signify she isn’t just some meek slave girl anymore.
This film was “Hollywood” to say the least. The filmmakers wanted a wide scale audience to see this film, which is one of the reasons why the brutality of her childhood and the following wasn’t shown. However, that was part of her story too. We see scars on her back, but don’t know how she got them besides inferring ourselves. However, isn’t that what a movie should do? A film should take that inference and make it come to life.
I would give this film a 4/5. It is a big budget Hollywood film so expect a little overplay in some areas of her life and underplay for other parts, but she was so incredible and the film definitely captures that.