Shaken by the social unrest in her community, a young girl witnesses a horrific crime outside her window and unwittingly beckons the spirit of Harriet Tubman to help her right some wrongs.
“I see you, Mara. Come, let’s have tea.” The Budha, Siddharta Gautama, to the Demon God, Mara.
Though I’m not Buddhist, this metaphor for how we must tackle our challenges in life resonates with me. When I struggle to look at the dark parts of myself or humanity, I sit and have tea with Mara.
This is my intention with “8:46PM. Harriet Arrives.”
As a child given up at a young age, I daydreamed often. When something traumatic happened, I wondered what an alternative to that could be. What, if anything, could change in the sequence to cause a different outcome?
I came across an Instagram video during the George Floyd protests. In it was a young brown-skinned girl, she was crying, terrified. Her parents, filming, were encouraging her to speak to a female cop who wanted desperately to alleviate this child’s fear of her. It was like watching a kid afraid of dogs being coerced into touching one. My heart ached for her. And, for the cop.
Adults have no clue, really, how to process all this…stuff. So, how are kids doing it? What are they thinking…?
My objective is not to tidy up issues of discrimination and social injustice; but rather to consider the children terrified of those tasked to protect them. Consider them trying to wrap their heads around just how long eight minutes and forty-six seconds is.
The film’s tone is somber as dictated by its subject matter, but also by the familiar gospel hymns Harriet sings as she plucks each character out of their fatal situations. These songs, crucial because they open the audience up to a spiritual place within themselves, will allow them to feel safe, and scared, and connected at the same time.
In my work, you’ll encounter fantasy, surrealism, some horror, comedy. Here, I’m combining magical realism with animation to portray the wish the girl in this story has. Her “one thing” that could change in the sequence of events to cause a different outcome.
Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.
When Harriet Arrives... It's time.
the growing team
Why me, why now, why this story...?
Because, there's much work yet to be done. And, being a member of this society, I must do my part.
My fascination with Harriet Tubman (her bravery, her life philosophy, her ambition, her drive and the impact she made in her lifetime) first began in 1997, the year I came back to America.
I was born in the States, and though it is customary in many cultures to send their children home to be raised till a certain age, my case was a tiny bit different in that my mom kept my older sister here with her, and sent me to be raised in Nigeria. Her Sophie's Choice (a conversation for another day, maybe over a cup of tea.)
My 1997 fascination with Harriet Tubman kind of faded into the recesses of my mind as I found my way through life as a teen and then as an adult in my new world, but it resurfaced after the incident with George Floyd and its aftermath.
This question "what would Harriet do (#WWHD) if she came back and saw the state of things today?" has played itself repeatedly in my mind for a few years now. In response, as if it a literal vision, a story formed in my heart that has taken hold and is demanding to be told.
With your tax deductible contribution thanks to the wonderful folks at Film Independent, my team and I can and will do just that -- tell this story truthfully and impactfully.
~Aimiende Negbenebor Sela (writer-director)