Although she has been in the entertainment industry since the mid-1990s, Octavia Spencer only really hit mainstream success when she played Minny Jackson in Tate Taylor’s ‘The Help’ in 2011. For her performance in this movie, Spencer won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Since then, she has risen to prominence and has shown particular skill at portraying figures who were once hidden from the limelight.
A perfect example of this was her performance in the 2016 film ‘Hidden Figures’ in which she starred alongside Janelle Monae and Taraji P. Henson. She has continued with this theme by championing stories and carefully choosing her roles.
It was recently announced by Variety that Octavia Spencer’s most recent project is an independent film about Elizabeth ‘Mumbet’ Freeman. The film, which is called ‘Mumbet’, is based on a book written by Jana Laiz and Ann-Elizabeth Barnes called ‘A Free Woman on God’s Earth’. It is written as a narrative by Freeman in which she documents her life as an enslaved African-American woman in Massachusetts during the period of the Revolutionary War. The film will also have this narrative style. The storyline also includes the events which lead up to Freeman filing for and winning a freedom suit in line with the new State Constitution and becoming a free woman.
Octavia Spencer is taking on the role of producer, which is a step away from her usual role in front of the camera and her other career as an author. The screenplay adaptation is being written by Stephen Glantz, who also wrote ‘Wunderkinder’. The film will be directed by Alethea Root, who is best-known as the director of ‘Part Time Fabulous’. So far, casting details for this movie has not yet been released.
This is the first time that Freeman’s story has been adapted for the screen. This is rather surprising as she played such a key role in ensuring that African-Americans had civil liberties. The only other occasion when her story has been mentioned on television was in a single episode of ‘Liberty’s Kids’, an educational television series.
Now seems the perfect time to tell this story and bring Freeman to the attention of the public. Her story is definitely one that is worth telling and the Black Lives Matter movement means that the timing of ‘Mumbet’ is just right.
Although slavery is an ugly subject, it is one that is historically significant. In recent years, there have been some excellent examples of films about slavery and liberation. Two of these are ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and ’12 Years a Slave’. However, these two films are told from the perspective of males. ‘Mumbet’ will be one of the first films to look at slavery and liberation from the perspective of a woman.
One of the few examples of these historical events told from a female perspective is ‘A Woman Called Moses’. This is a miniseries from the 1970s about the life of Harriet Tubman. There is also a film about this iconic woman in the making.
Octavia Spencer has enjoyed a varied career and her involvement in this new project is exciting. As yet, there are no dates confirmed for production of ‘Mumbet’.