Harriet: UT Austin 25 November 2019

Everyone should be familiar with a lot of the story. If not, shame on you for not paying attention in your history class. We do learn more about Harriet Tubman than we are taught in school. She saved over 70 slaves. She led an army unit during the Civil War and saved about 750 more. All of the actors do a brilliant job despite the script. The current film is a TV movie on the big screen. There is a brilliant film to be made about Harriet Tubman but this is not it. Stay home and do not waste your money. You should see the film but wait until it comes to Netflix or one of the cable movie channels.

meli and I saw a free screening at UT last night followed by a Q&A with one of the producers. The audience was a mix of college students and older people. Most of them laughed at points that both of us found not to be funny. They also cheered at other points and I kept thinking, “this is not an action film.” A scene at the beginning with Harriet and her husband John, has them both smiling widely and showing off their bright white straight teeth, which took me out of the movie immediately and made me think that the farm had a great dental plan.



The Q&A was moderated by Dr. Minkah Malaki and Natasha Davison of the university. Also from the university was Dr. Daina Ramey Berry, who is an expert on American slavery. And the guest was Debra Martin Chase, who has produced Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Cheetah Girls (a big cheer went up for the last one).

Martin Chase’s first point was that the film was not about slavery but about freedom. Which is why they showed the results of whippings but not the actual cruelty itself of what went happened on the farm.

We did not stay until the end but there was on man videotaping the Q&A on his phone, who started yelling out when they talked about the controversy of casting Cynthia Erivo. Martin Chase said she was the best actor for the job and if you see her performance, that is true. But apparently that is not the controversy that some in the audience wanted to talk about. Apparently Erivo has tweeted some things that insulted American blacks. I’m not sure what it was but it may have to do with calling someone or them “ghetto.” There was a lot of yelling from the audience and then from the stage telling people to calm down or they would be asked to leave.

There is a character called Bigger Long, a black man, who is a slave catcher. The same man in the audience started yelling how Bigger Long did not exist. Dr. Berry countered with that even if that person did not exist, there is a long list of black people who were traitors to their people and then she started listing them, getting louder as the other man kept yelling that Bigger Long did not exist. He did not care if Bigger Long was an amalgam of real people, who was created for the movie. The truth did not matter to him.

Eventually the man was forced to leave and the Q&A continued. As meli and I were leaving, we saw him outside talking with two other men. He was still angry and yelling while one of the other men was questioning him.

By Carene Lydia Lopez