Monday, November 4, 2019

Harriet: Strength of Will and Faith

I must thank Downton Abbey for showing me the trailer for Harriet, otherwise the movie might have slipped right under my radar. I try to look at the list of upcoming movies to catch ones like this, but sometimes they appear and disappear so quickly. It's a shame, really. Harriet Tubman is a figure both of historical significance and timeless (that is, also modern) thematic importance. She was a woman who became famous by the strength of her actions, actions achieved by her perseverance and unbending will. We remember her simply because she did what was right--is there any better legacy? So a movie based on her should be viewed widely, not on the limited scope that it undoubtedly will be viewed.

One of the great things about this film was that it took the historical approach while also maintaining Harriet's faith. There is in fact enough faith in this story for it to be a faith film--so I wish that all the faith media outlets would promote it as hardcore as they might promote a faith film. It's on a similar level as Amazing Grace, which was the story of William Wilburforce's political efforts to abolish the British slave trade. I was pretty obsessed with that movie for a while; I love when faith and history, two interests of mine, intersect (maybe also because I don't tend to like "Christian movies" that much. They can be a little too Hallmark for my tastes; I often better like how the historical films include faith).

Perhaps unsurprising given the focus on faith, but what was also refreshing about this movie was that it did not include vengeance or even judgement. Harriet doesn't want to start violence and burn down white homes and torture her former "master." She just wants to free people, to bring them out of a living hell. She wants to do good, not ill. Even her final confrontation with Gideon is not about rubbing it in his face that she has won; it's about sorrow that he has chosen loss for himself. That's what stood out about their interactions to me: the film wasn't trying to put judgment on him but to show the tragedy of how he was convincing himself that he didn't care about Harriet as a person. The style of the movie just lets the audience sit back and think about the individual choices that each character makes.

Harriet. Gideon. Marie, who is a refined and accomplished woman who chooses to help others, even when it leads to her violent death. Walter, who cannot help but see the good that Harriet is doing and decides to join her in it despite (or because of) the actions in his past. The choices we make, they compose who we are. We make the choice now, right now. The past has already happened. The future we cannot know. But the choice that we make right now, that is ours.

If we could all be as bold and unbending and as good as Harriet Tubman, then so many things in this world would be so very different. All good to this movie for simply portraying her as a woman who made the good choice--again and again. Her strength of will, strength of character, and strength of faith were remarkable.

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