Things that make you go hmm… slave movie fever in full effect – Django Unchained, 12 Years A Slave, and others I’m probably forgetting right now.
Toss this into the mix as well.
I couldn’t immediately find anything online about ‘Big Ben Jones‘ (it’s based on a true story), although that doesn’t mean much. Maybe someone else would have better luck.
Regardless, details about the project (which NFL free agent Jeremiah Trotter just joined the cast of, playing the film’s starring role), in the press release below:
Doylestown, PA. July 18, 2012 – THE NORTH STAR, an independent feature film based on true events, tells the story of Big Ben Jones, a slave who makes a daring escape from a Virginia plantation to Buckingham, PA in 1848, and gets helped by local Quakers.
Long held in the archives of the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA, this is an important story that has never been brought to the public in this manner. The filmmaker (written/director Thomas K. Phillips) and producers have conducted extensive research and with the assistance of the museum staff, recently held a press event that included an actual shoe of Big Ben Jones.
Jeremiah Trotter is the newest member to be added to the cast and news is traveling fast throughout the region. As an admired member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Trotter was first signed by the team in the 1998 NFL Draft. He then played for the Washington Redskins before returning to the Eagles in 2004 and was also voted to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006.
In addition to Trotter, cast members for THE NORTH STAR include Clifton Powell (Ray, Norbert, Rush Hour, Friday After Next), Michael Rapaport (Hitch, The 6th Day), Lynn Whitfield (HBO’s Josephine Baker Story), Michael Jai White (Spawn, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?), April Woodall (Broadway actress and vocalist), Keith David (Platoon, Crash, The Thing, ATL), Jermaine Jones (Finalist on American Idol), and Alana Lee.
Director of Photography is Keiko Nakahara (honored as one of the outstanding up-and-coming cinematographers by the president of The American Society of Cinematographers).
Filming will take place on location all throughout Bucks County, and will commence in August.
I did find a website for the project, which has a much longer synopsis that pretty much tells you the whole story. It follows below, but you’ve been warned, if you don’t like spoilers:
In the American South of the 1840’s the forced servitude of blacks was a way of life. Brutality enabled this institution to flourish and any slave caught attempting to secure their liberty through escape faced the cruelest retribution.
In late August of 1848, two courageous men took this step so fraught with peril and ran away from their master’s plantation in Virginia.
BENJAMIN “BIG BEN” JONES and MOSES HOPKINS, armed with little more than instructions to follow the North Star, would brave cold, hunger and bloodthirsty pursuers in their flight to freedom. In their darkest hour, they would be befriended by a southern white religious family whose sacrifice on their behalf changed the two forever.
Fortune eventually guided the pair to the comparative safety of BUCKINGHAM, Pennsylvania where they felt so comfortable that they almost immediately resolved to make it their home. Before the sun had set on their first day in Buckingham however, happenstance thrust Big Ben and Moses into an emergency meeting of Underground Railroad workers at the MT. GILEAD CHURCH.
At this meeting Big Ben makes a fateful decision to assist the radical-leaning Quaker JOSHUA FELL in the dangerous rescue of a pregnant escaped slave. From this point on, Big Ben became aligned with the militant abolitionist faction that prevailed locally while Moses adopted a more passive, nonviolent role for the cause.
When not off on an adventure with potentially grave consequences, Ben managed to cultivate the acquaintance of a fellow escaped slave, Sarah, and soon the two fell in love.
Under the uniquely trying circumstances of their situation, all seemed to be going well for Ben, Moses and the residents of Buckingham. Ben even gets the opportunity to encounter leaders in the abolitionist movement when he meets HARRIET TUBMAN and WILLIAM STILL, and later witnesses, along with a sizeable contingent from the Mt. Gilead Church, a speech by FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
When it appears that a comfortable sense of normalcy has finally arrived for Ben in his new life, treachery from an unexpected source strike remorselessly. He is confronted with an escaped slaves’ greatest fear, and this encounter, along with the reaction of his fellow towns people, provides a most poignant moment at the conclusion of this chronicle.
This is a story that shows humanity at its best and at its worst during the time of slavery in America.