A review of the new bio-pic “Harriet”

Araminta “Minty” Ross was born a slave in the American state of Maryland probably in 1822 but, when she escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, she took the ‘free name’ of Harriet Tubman. As if her own escape was not remarkable enough, she subsequently made some 13 missions back south to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

For some years, there has been an agreement that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson – an architect of the forced removal and slaughter of native peoples and a slave owner – on the $20 bill. The plan was that this would happen in 2020, the centenary of the right of women to vote, but the Trump administration has found reason to delay this.

It is entirely appropriate and timely, therefore, that Tubman’s story – hardly known outside the United States – should be told in a movie directed and co-written by a American black woman Kasi Lemmons. In fact, the eponymous role is filled by an actress Cynthia Erivo, who is British and black and known for her recent work in “Widows”, and she gives an accomplished performance.

Beautifully shot with some stirring gospel singing, this is an immensely worthy and rather reverential production, but sadly the presentation of the narrative as almost a series of adventures, the odd emphasis on Tubman’s visions, some unfortunate speechifyng, and the stereotypical depiction of all the characters make this a less than wholly cinematic satisfactory experience. 

Link: Wikipedia page on Harriet Tubman click here


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