‘I Am so Damned Proud of My Ancestors’: Barry Jenkins Honors the Beauty of Black Survival in The Underground Railroad

I am definitely watching THIS! ~ V


I’m very proud to be the descendent of blacksmiths and midwives and healers and herbalists. I am very damned proud of it. I’d rather be the descendent of those people, then the descendent of kings and queens. Kings and queens have subjects— subjects this means subjugation.

I am so damned proud of my ancestors and I don’t think their images are inherently negative. And I think that showing the things that they transcended… there’s noting more positive than that.

~ Barry Jenkins, Director, ‘The Underground Railroad’


The Underground Railroad is a riveting story about Black survival.

While the dramatic series is centered around an enslaved Black woman, Cora (portrayed by Thuso Mbedu), and placed in the antebellum South, Barry Jenkins is still able to quite masterfully capture beauty.

The 10-part Amazon series depicts beauty aesthetically, in its use of light, and shadow, and color (that reflects off of the Black skin).

Audiences also see beauty in the film’s cinematography, particularly the use of portrait shots (that Barry Jenkins has become known for). When the actors look directly into the barrel of the camera, it is as though you can see their souls. There was also beauty in the scenes that show Black humanity—our love, our joy, our resistance, our resilience.

Somehow Jenkins found beauty in the terror that is America’s original sin.

With the 2020 uprisings and the ongoing police killings, many don’t want to see anymore Black trauma. Is it possible to tell a story about slavery and Black survival without trauma?

“I do think that it’s important to acknowledge the trauma,” said Jenkins. “But the survival that you mentioned—to me that’s the most important thing.” The Academy Award-winning director continued, “ I am so damned proud of my ancestors and I don’t think their images are inherently negative. And I think that showing the things that they transcended… there’s noting more positive than that.”

Watch interview – Finding Beauty in Transcendence

Airs on Amazon Prime May 14, 2021.


The Underground Railroad – Official Teaser Trailer ~ Video via Rotten Tomatoes TV

 

 

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