The "coming of age" genre of American movies can vary wildly in terms of subject matter. There are the great teenage "coming-of-age"
films (see: John Hughes)- which are more poignant than standard, individual
teen angst stories dealing with topics such as "Why doesn't he like me?"
or "How do I get rid of my acne and become more popular?" Yet other, far more dramatic "coming of age" films center on the evolution of the United States, none more movingly than those dealing with the abolitionist period of our nation's history. It
was a proud time in our history; people of conviction stood up against an
abhorrent societal norm in certain areas of the country. Some people went
willingly and others were dragged kicking and screaming into a new age of
tolerance and growth. Yes, I know, we're still not
all growed-up yet but you notice that with every day passing day we see increasingly
sympathetic reactions to tragedies such as those that happened in Ferguson,
Missouri or Sanford, Florida. Good people often come together through grief.
The North Star is a moving and engaging "coming-of-age"
film. First time writer and director Thomas K. Phillips assembled an impressive
cast to tell this inspirational story based upon factual travails. "Big Ben" Jones and
Moses Hopkins (Jeremiah Trotter and Thomas C. Bartley, Jr., respectively)
become runaway slaves from the plantation they work on in Virginia when Ben
learns that he is about to be sold to an even more heinous slave-owner. Once sold, he will be
shipped to Mississippi - a state where he fears he would be subject to even greater degradation "Let's just say it's a matter of Mississippi
pride,"says the purchaser of "Big Ben," Wilburn Davis (Tim
O'Connell). "With the biggest owned niggrah comes the biggest
prestige," replies the current owner, Master Anderson (John Diehl) and
they settle on a price of $5000. Upon
learning that his new “property” has escaped, Anderson takes immediate action."That's
over a year's salary," Anderson tells the slave hunters he's hired. There
are some frightening, reprehensible creatures in this film but also some benevolent characters, as well. One of them is Mr. Lee (Clifton Powell), who advises the runaways to head toward the free state of Pennsylvania by following- you guessed it- the North Star.At the risk of making a faux pas, there's very little gray in
The North Star - things are pretty much black and white.
The North Star premiered on
UMC (Urban Movie Channel) last month for Black History Month and is now sold at
Wal-Mart and Amazon, and will be available on disc via Netflix as well as
the following digital sites: iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, Xbox and Vimeo.
I viewed the film on DVD, which unfortunately has no bonus extras or even
set-up options, either. There are scenes in the film where the dialogue is very
soft and lines can be missed, indicating the sound mixing could have been
tweaked a bit better. I would have watched it with subtitles had I been given
the option. One unrelated peeve of
mine is that there isn’t enough screen time afforded to Keith David. This
accomplished actor briefly portrays (less that 2 minutes of screen time) the
great Frederick Douglas. If you have never seen Mr. David perform Shakespeare,
do so if you can. His Othello (with Liev Schreiber as Iago) is the finest I've seen. (I've forgiven him, almost, for playing Cameron Diaz's step-father in
"There's Something About Mary." That's two hours plus I'll never get
however, is worth a viewing, despite the fact that the direction is a bit erratic and the editing sometimes results in some confusion. However, cast is uniformly superb. Despite my aforementioned criticisms, I believe that director Thomas K. Phillips has a promising future in the industry and I look forward to his next film.