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Photo via OkayAfrica's 100 Women.

Focus Features Has Set Production on Harriet Tubman Biopic Starring Cynthia Erivo

The cast for the film directed by Kasi Lemmons has also been rounded out.

The opportunity to see the story of legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the big screen will be even more of a reality soon, Deadline reports.

Focus Features has set production on Harriet, which will star Nigerian-British powerhouse Cynthia Erivo, who's set to play the title role. The film will be directed by Kasi Lemmons, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.

The cast has been rounded out as well, as Erivo will be joined by Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles and Clarke Peters.

Harriet will portray Tubman's escape from slavery and her several missions to free dozens of enslaved people through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.


"This is the story of a seemingly powerless woman who accomplished the extraordinary to save her loved ones, and in the process became a leader of and inspiration for her people," producers Debra Martin Chase and Daniela Taplin Lundberg say to Deadline. "While Harriet Tubman is a household name, most people don't know the breadth of her story—not only was she a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but she was a spy for the Union army and remains one of the few women to have led an armed expedition in US history."

We caught up with Erivo, who's also an OkayAfrica 100 Women honoree, in a video interview last year, where she touches on the role when the news was fresh:

"I am going to be playing Harriet Tubman in the biopic which is still something that I'm trying to process. I've been learning about her and found out that she's 4 foot 11 [inches]...and she was incredibly, physically very, very strong. Those things are [what] will inform how I'll play her."

Watch the insightful clip in full below.

Production starts next month in Virginia. Focus Features will handle global distribution of the film with Universal Pictures International.

Shadow and Act also notes that when the film was first announced, MACRO was on one of the backers of the film with Charles D. King as an executive producer. This is no longer, though Chase, Lundberg and Howard will still be the original producers.

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Runtown. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How Runtown Got His Groove Back

In the past year, Runtown has had to look behind him to shed the ghosts of his former label. Now he's looking forward to more success.

In May of 2018 with two months left on his contract, the Nigerian popstar Runtown woke up one morning to news that his record label, Eric Many Entertainment, was suing him for damages worth N267 million. A potential local court injunction against him meant Runtown might face the possibility of being barred from making music until the suit was resolved. It was the the start in of a string of legal battles between the singer and his label that threatened his very existence as an artist.

As Runtown planned his next steps, his boss, Ukwudili Umenyiora was doing everything he could not to let him go. The suit was a ploy to get him to extend the contract, or reach a settlement that would allow the label to keep a stake in his future business. In the press, Runtown was lambasted daily by suspected paid agents of the record label.

After the record label tried to prevent a performance in Canada, and sent cease and desist letters to radio stations, asking them to pull Runtown off playlists, something cracked in his camp. His legal team mobilised. They launched an offensive, filing cases and petitions on many fronts across Lagos, Abuja and New York. His boss and aggressor, Okwudili Umenyiora, was arrested twice by the local police on petitions by Runtown. To stop the media harassment, Umenyiora signed a legal agreement promising to back off. With the coast clear, he could then focus on the music.

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Video still via YouTube.

'Ratnik' Is the Dystopian Nollywood Action Film You Didn't Know You Needed

Watch the dramatic teaser from Nigerian filmmaker Dimeji Ajibola.

A film 2 years in the making is yet another cinematic moment contributing to the growing diversity of subgenres in the Nollywood industry.

Ratnik is a dystopian action film from Nigerian filmmaker Dimeji Ajibola his production company Flipsyde Studios. The teaser recently dropped this month ahead of the official trailer—and from this 1-minute clip we're anticipating suspense, explosions, peculiar superhero characters and impressive vfx that we're seeing more of in Nigerian films.

Get into the teaser below.

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Music
Moonchild Sanelly. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Swiss Producer Dejot Enlists South African Leftfield Artists Moonchild Sanelly, Waterlillyrose, RADIO 123 and More in His New EP ‘Uhujano’

Listen to Dejot's latest EP.

Swiss electronic producer Dejot has a fondness for South African and its musicians. "What was really surprising to me was the fact, that when I played my music, my demos or ideas, people started to dance immediately," says Dejot in an email to OkayAfrica. "I was really surprised, that there was something in my music that hit them and made them move. This is very different compared to Europe or Switzerland, where people mostly stand around and just listen to it."

Last year, Dejot produced the rapper Robin Thirdfloor's EP Bhotela in its entirety. He has also worked with Bongeziwe Mabandla. This year, for his latest EP, Uhujano, he enlisted South Africa-based artists Moonchild Sanelly, Waterlillyrose, Robert Machiri and the duo RADIO 123.

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