Here’s your first look at NFL free agent Jeremiah Trotter as escaped slave Big Ben Jones, and Keith David as Frederick Douglass, in writer/director Thomas K. Phillips’ upcoming indie feature film, The North Star, which we first alerted you to last month.
A quick recap… the film is based on true events, and 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.
In addition to Trotter and David, the film’s cast includes Clifton Powell, Michael Rapaport, Lynn Whitfield, Michael Jai White, April Woodall, Jermaine Jones, and Alana Lee.
It’s not yet public what characters each of these other actors are playing in the film. I wonder who’s playing Harriet Tubman (she’s on the character list).
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 is taking place right now, on location all throughout Bucks County, PA.
Images below of Trotter as Big Ben Jones (posing with Clifton Powell), and David as Frederick Douglass (underneath the photos you’ll find a much longer synopsis for the film, which tells much of the story, if you don’t care about 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.