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'The Underground Railroad': Barry Jenkins travels to the depths of slavery


The director of 'Moonlight' builds a series as beautiful and dreamlike as it is raw about the trauma of his ancestors

In the overture to

The Underground Railroad


The Underground Railroad

), adaptation of the filmmaker Barry Jenkins of the novel that earned him the first of his two


to the writer Colson Whitehead, a stunning black woman new mother buries her placenta, a slave flees back down , the specter of another disappears into a haze of ashes, the figure of an old white man stops with disconsolate sadness, an Afro-haired girl walks through flames and another falls into the void while a baby is heard crying.

To the director of


A few minutes are enough to introduce us to the rosary of pain, mystery and captivating beauty of his epic of more than 10 hours, in 10 chapters, about one of the worst ghosts of his country. A chilling panorama held on a childhood fantasy: an underground railway that never existed, a children's story that works as a metaphor for the clandestine network of abolitionists that helped free thousands of slaves.

The Underground Railroad

, premiered on Amazon Prime Video, captures the hazardous and heinous adventure of Cora, a runaway slave who seeks her mother and freedom and that of a slave hunter, Arnold Ridgeway, who runs away from her antislavery father to embrace the hell.

Between the longings, scars and demons of these two fascinating characters, Jenkins builds a series, as beautiful and dreamlike as it is raw, about the trauma of slavery, with a plasticity (southern white-green-yellow, brown-gray-blue north, the scorched earth of Tennessee ...), which allows the viewer to undertake a journey of a thousand layers, between light and shadow, between North and South, between the past and the present, between the living and the dead.

Colson Whitehead: "The US has not yet come to terms with the slavery episode"

Cora is the young slave protagonist of Whitehead's book and is also the center of the series.

Played by the actress Thuso Mbedu, who is wonderful, like the rest of the cast, she is a rebellious martyr who, at the very beginning of the series and with the painful and defiant countenance that she will maintain throughout her flight, curses her mother for having abandoned her: "The first and last thing she asked me was an apology," she says.

The mother, Mabel, is a symbol of freedom on the plantation.

The only slave who slipped from the clutches of the hunter played by an impressive Joel Edgerton, a dark character who travels in his wagon accompanied by a decked out black boy, Homer, his faithful and disturbing assistant.

Chase Dillon and Joel Edgerton, on 'The Underground Railroad.' Kyle Kaplan / Amazon Prime Video

The hunter's father is interpreted by the British Peter Mullan in a chapter (the fourth) that — together with the very brief seventh or tenth — is at the top of this television fiction. On the back of a character of prophetic force, Mullan represents the Great Spirit, “the one that connects us all”, to gravitate with his powerful presence throughout history. Jenkins directs his performers so well that they sink deep, no matter how episodic their roles are. Faced with his, at times, excesses of visual rhetoric, the filmmaker always finds the counterweight of acting truth.

The Underground Railroad

is an epic ambition series whose storytelling wisdom turns a slave's escape and fierce pursuit by a messianic bounty hunter into a parent-child reckoning. Also from the director himself against the founding father of the language of American cinema, DW Griffith, and the racism of his

The Birth of a Nation

. A return to the origins that forces us to look at childhood, a territory in which Jenkins moves with such naturalness and commitment that his cast of children (little Mack, Fanny Briggs, the demonic Homer, Cora herself ...) forms a body the only one in which tragedy and hope go hand in hand.

And finally, and beyond the musicality that surrounds the entire series, there are the songs that close each episode.

They play an anachronism that at this point is not very original if it were not for the good taste they exude and that here, in some way, evoke the anti-racist allegation

Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death

, a masterpiece by artist Arthur Jafa composed of a bloody mosaic of archival images to the beat

of Kanye West's

Ultralight Beam



An image from the first chapter of 'The Underground Railroad' Atsushi Nishijima / Amazon Prime Video


Director: Barry Jenkins.

Performers: Thuso Mbedu, Joel Edgerton, Chase Dillon, Aaron Pierre.

Genre: drama.

United States, 2021.

Duration: 10 episodes.

Platform: Amazon Prime Video.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2021-05-14

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