Focus Features has revealed the first trailer for Harriet, which looks like it's instantly putting itself squarely in this year's Oscar race. The biopic stars Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, the famous abolitionist who freed dozens of slaves during the Civil War, utilizing the Underground Railroad. If this first footage is any indication, Erivo has just positioned herself as a surefire bet to land a Best Actress nomination later this year at the Academy Awards. Beyond that, it looks like a compelling take on a truly legendary real-life American tale of heroism and bravery.
The trailer kicks off by showcasing the titular figure's escape from slavery which, all on its own, would make for a compelling tale. Yet, as we see, that's just the beginning. As we see, Tubman bravely made the choice to go back to the North to free her family, which led her to free many others as well. There is a major undercurrent of intensity running throughout the entire trailer, which climaxes with Harriet standing at arms getting ready to fire upon a group of Southerners. It's an extremely powerful image.
Cynthia Erivo is a well-respected actress who previously won a Tony for her work on Broadway. Last year, Erivo starred in the criminally underrated Widows, which also felt like it was bound for Oscar glory early on. Not to mention her amazing turn in the equally underrated Bad Times at the El Royale. But this is very much an ensemble piece, as the surrounding cast is equally impressive. The rest of the cast includes Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder On the Orient Express), Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures), Joe Alwyn (Mary Queen of Scots), Clarke Peters (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and country music star Jennifer Nettles.
Harriet is billed as a "thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter." It tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's own escape from slavery, which led to her transition into one of America's greatest heroes, having bravely rescued an estimated 70 enslaved people. Her courage, ingenuity and tenacity saved many slaves, while also changing the course of history.
Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk to Me) is in the director's chair. The screenplay comes from writers Gregory Allen Howard (Ali, Remember the Titans) and Kasi Lemmons. Howard also serves as a producer alongside Debra Martin Chase and Daniela Taplin Lundberg.
It was also announced recently that the movie will hold its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in October. That's a very good sign, as many past Oscar winners, like The Shape of Water as a recent example, also debuted at the prestigious festival. It's viewed as a launching pad for awards season runs by Hollywood. Harriet is set to arrive in theaters on November 1, a date that also implies the studio sees this as an awards season contender. Be sure to check out the trailer from the Focus Features YouTube channel for yourself.