In celebration of Black History Month, we’ll be making daily movie recommendations, presented in chronological order of the films’ stories.
Stay tuned to Noovie every day as we highlight an original, landmark film worth revisiting or discovering for the first time.
February 1 – Harriet (1840s – 1860s)
Acclaimed filmmaker Kasi Lemmons directs the first commercial motion picture ever (!) focused on slave-turned-abolitionist/activist Harriet Tubman, starring Cynthia Erivo in an Academy Award-nominated turn for Best Actress. Released Nov. 1, 2019, the film co-stars Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr. and singer/actress phenom Janelle Monae. Watch the Trailer.
“Harriet” is in many ways a traditional biopic about the historical events surrounding Araminta “Minty” Ross’ transformation in 1840s Maryland from a slave to a free woman. It’s also a modern retelling of one of the original, true female action heroes. The movie plays out in somewhat formulaic fashion as the audience is introduced to Minty as a slave who’s married to a freed man, Junyah (CJ McBath), who lives down the road. Minty herself has lived her whole life on the Brodess family farm, along with her sisters and mother.
Threatened by the possibility that she’ll be sold further into slavery, Minty makes a run for freedom. Her journey is an arduous one, but she eventually arrives in Philadelphia, and is taken in by activist William Still (Odom Jr.) and Marie Buchanan (Monae). Unfortunately, she’s also pursued by her former owner Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn), who along with his cohorts causes torment for the newly named Harriet Tubman (in honor of her mother and husband) and her allies.
What’s most memorable about the film is Erivo’s soulfulness in the role of Harriet, and her believability as a woman of action who would repeatedly return to dangerous territory to help others escape via the Underground Railroad. While director Kasi Lemmons doesn't provide as much innovative storytelling here as she did in her lauded first feature “Eve’s Bayou,” Ervio’s conviction has a lasting impact, and the surrounding performances and technical aspects of the production are all first-rate.
Besides Erivo’s nomination for Best Actress, the film received an Oscar nom for Best Original Song (“Stand Up”).
Amongst plenty of other accolades, "Harriet" also swept its nominations for the Women Film Critics Circle Awards, including wins for Best Actress, Invisible Woman Award (Janelle Monae), Best Female Action Hero and Best Movie by a Woman (Kasi Lemmons).
Where to Watch
Black History Month – Daily Movie Recommendations: February 1 – Harriet (1840s - 1860s)
February 2 – Glory (1863 - 1865)
February 3 – The Color Purple (1909 - 1949)
February 4 – The Great Debaters (1935)
February 5 – Mudbound (1946)
February 6 - Eve's Bayou (1960s)
February 7 - A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
February 8 - Hidden Figures - (1961)
February 9 – 4 Little Girls (1963)
February 10 – Malcolm X (1925 - 1965)
February 11 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
February 12 - The Wiz (1978)
February 13 - Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
February 14 - Coming to America (1988)
February 15 - Do the Right Thing (1989)
February 16 - Boyz n the Hood (1984 - 1991)
February 17 - Straight Outta Compton (1986 - 1995)
February 18 - Barbershop (2002)
February 19 - Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
February 20 - The Butler (1926 - 2009)
February 21 - Fruitvale Station (2009)
February 22 - For Colored Girls (2010)
February 23 - Pariah (2011)
February 24 - Girlhood (2014)
February 25 - Dope (2015)
February 26 - 13th (2016)
February 27 - Moonlight (2016)
February 28 - Get Out (2017)
February 29 - Sorry to Bother You (2019)
Biography / 2019 / PG-13
From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.