We're used to seeing abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman as an older woman, her legacy as one of the most important figures in American history cemented by her many achievements. That's why the first shot of her in the trailer for her new biopic, Harriet, is so jarring.
Widows star Cynthia Erivo plays Tubman in the film directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou), who co-wrote the script with Gregory Allen Howard (Ali, Remember the Titans), which begins with her journey to escape slavery, before returning to help dozens of people to freedom via the Underground Railroad. This is Harriet as we've only rarely seen before: a brave young hero taking on a Herculean task.
“I will give every last drop of blood in my veins until this monster called slavery is dead," she says in the trailer, released today.
Speaking to Refinery29 back in February, Lemmons explained why she choose to focus on this particular time in Tubman's life.
“The images that we see of Harriet Tubman and the way we're used to thinking of her is of a much older person, but to think what she did when she was a young woman is quite extraordinary," Lemmons said. "We don't really have a lot of [visuals] from that period, when she was really doing her superwoman thing. She's this incredible figure."
"It's a very interesting time in American history, and it's a very interesting time in Harriet Tubman's life," she added.
Harriet, which will hit theatres on November 1, also stars Janelle Monae as one of Tubman's mentors, and Leslie Odom Jr. as William Still, a Philadelphia abolitionist who helped her develop her Underground Railroad network. Taylor Swift's boyfriend Joe Alwyn seems to be continuing in his streak of playing the most villainous characters imaginable (see: Operation Finale, Boy Erased), playing what appears to be a slave-owner on the hunt for Tubman.
In the trailer, we see Alwyn's character catch up with Tubman as she runs for her life. Standing on the edge of a bridge, she declares, "I'm going to be free or die," and jumps into the raging river below.
This small glimpse at Erivo's performance already hints at potential Oscar chatter, and the film definitely has the credentials to go all the way. According to Entertainment Weekly, Oscar-nominated musician Terence Blanchard (BlacKkKlansman) composed the music, and the project also boasts two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll (Braveheart), and Emmy-winning costume designer Paul Tazewell (The Wiz!), among its crew. Awards season is officially underway!
Watch the full trailer below: