The new series from the director of “Moonlight”, which has received critical acclaim
Barry Jenkins is the man behind “The Underground Railroad”. It focuses on escaping slavery in the United States.
The series has ten episodes.
After the highly regarded films “Moonlight” and “If This Street Could Talk”, American director Barry Jenkins makes his debut as a series creator. The result is “The Underground Railroad”, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video last Friday, May 14th.
It is a ten-episode production that is an adaptation of the Colson Whitehead book of the same name. Like many other stories that have hit cinemas or television in recent years, the narrative focuses on slavery in the United States in the 19th century.
The protagonist is Cora, a young African American who was born and raised a slave on a cotton plantation in the state of Georgia. She was abandoned by her mother, who was still a child and managed to escape from the plantation.
Although this example is so evident in her life – and also because she hates what her mother did to her – Cora is devoted to her fate. Plantation life, as Barry Jenkins roughly (and realistically) shows us, is a living nightmare.
Physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse, and lack of dignity are common in the daily life of these slaves – who have different views on their condition from one another. One of Cora’s friends, Caesar, has a more angry attitude towards his owners. And he’s the one who persuades Cora to flee.
The “subway” became known as the network of people and safe houses that helped slaves from the southern United States escape this life. Through more or less secret contacts and free people who sympathized with slaves, they enabled many to reach cities in the northern United States or even Canada where slavery had already been abolished.
In Colson Whitehead’s book, which Barry Jenkins transposes for television, this “subway” is literally – it really is a subway line with multiple stops. In both the book and the series, the narrative is guided to more fantastic outlines with magical realism, although it keeps focusing on a completely real phenomenon.
As we observe Cora’s physical escape, we also follow her process of psychological self-liberation, the formation of a free identity, the discovery of the freedom she never had. Apart from the fact that there is little worry, because behind him stands Ridgeway, a relentless hunter of runaway slaves who works for the owners of the large plantations.
At one of the stops on this narrative train line, Cora stands in front of what appears to be an evolving city in South Carolina where whites offer programs to support former slaves, educate them, and integrate them into society. In the end, she works in a museum of slavery, which recreates scenes from the life of a slave. So she basically plays the old Cora in this work behind a glass wall and collects cotton.
Like everything else in this series, there are great metaphors and allegories today, and how they continue to be deeply marked by the slavery of centuries past. Everything is approached at a crossroads between realism and fantasy, between the visible and the underlying.
Barry Jenkins directs Thuso Mbedu, who plays Cora.
All of Cora’s steps towards freedom have negative consequences for his side – which can be understood as an analogy to the state of being black in America.
Barry Jenkins performed all of the episodes on the project, wrote the majority, and brought in cinematographer James Laxton and composer Nicholas Britell (with whom he worked on “Moonlight” and “If This Street Talked”). The production received critical acclaim for its approach to the subject, for adapting the book, and for its visual beauty.
The cast includes names such as Thuso Mbedu, Aaron Pierre, Chase Dillon, Joel Edgerton, Amber Gray, William Jackson Harper, Peter Mullan, Kraig Dane, Sheila Atim, Jeff Pope and Lucius Baston.
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