Until now, Ulric Cross has been an unfamiliar name to most – but this is a man whose life story already sounds like a film. Hailing from Trinidad, Cross migrated to the UK to fly in the Second World War. He went on to work for the BBC, before becoming involved in the Pan-African movement as a lawyer for several African governments.
In making Hero, Frances-Anne Solomon, British/Canadian/Trinidadian film-maker and director of the Caribbean Tales film festival, fulfilled a dying wish made to her mother by a family friend. But after she’d begun to research the story, it’s clear that the project became a passion for her too; why else would someone spend nine years striving to bring one project to fruition?
Written, directed and produced by Solomon, Hero tells the story of the life and times of Ulric Cross, spanning three continents and three perspectives – first-person interview, historical footage and dramatic scenes – to form a work of seamless depth and significance. Currently taking the film on a world tour, Solomon has fulfilled a promise to first bring it to its three homes, Trinidad, the UK and Ghana, as well as Canada where some scenes were also filmed.
Screened in a slightly unfinished form at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival last September, Hero was shown in Canada and Ghana earlier this year. The UK debut took place on Saturday 18 May at the British Film Institute. A Q&A session followed, with Frances-Anne Solomon, Fraser James (George Padmore), Rudolph Walker and Pippa Nixon (Ann Cross).
Next comes the North American premiere, when the film will be screened as part of the opening night of the New York African Film Festival, before moving on to other US destinations: Washington DC, for the opening night of the American Film Institute DC Caribbean FilmFest, and then San Francisco, where there will be a special screening at the Museum of the African Diaspora.
Speaking at the BFI, Solomon referred to the film as a “unique community event” and, thanking her many partners who included The Voice newspaper and the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission, spoke of the difficulties in making Black films. But, she said, the real difficulty comes with distribution.
However, Solomon has managed to secure a limited distribution deal in the UK, and Hero will be coming to the Ritzy, in Brixton, at the end of June, followed by other London and UK destinations. Keep an eye on our website, and we’ll keep you informed; this film really shouldn’t be missed by you, your friends or family.
Hero stars Nikolai Salcedo as Ulric Cross; Joseph Marcel as CLR James, historian, journalist and socialist; Fraser James as George Padmore, activist, journalist and author; Jimmy Akingbola as Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister and President of Ghana. Rudolph Walker and several other recognisable faces also make their appearance.