Director: Frances-Anne Solomon
Cast: Nickolai Salcedo, Peter Williams, Joseph Marcell, Pippa Nixon, John Dumelo, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Fraser James, Jimmy Akingbola, Adjetey Anang
Hero is part documentary, part re-enactment of the illustrious life of Ulric Cross – a Trinidadian jurist, diplomat, and Royal Air Force Navigator. The documentary segment of the film depicts him being interviewed by his daughter as he lays in bed. At this stage, he is in his late 90’s and frail but buoyant in voice and spirit. His memories of his life, still very fresh in his mind, serve as the fabric that weaves the narrative of the film. Cross grew up in a black lower middleclass household in colonial Trinidad with his parents and siblings. He was always academically inclined and the apple of his mother’s eyes. He achieved great success in school and saw himself registered in one of the top high schools in Trinidad. His future seemed bright – he knew he was destined for great things.
It would take him a few years to fulfil his potential as tragedy struck early on in his teenage years. His entire life was changed and he was so affected by the loss he experienced that he dropped out of school at 15 and took on odd jobs. He was a very social individual, so he had a wide selection of friends. Even though, he was not in school, he and his friends had a book club where they read stories and articles on political and socioeconomic topics. During this time, World War II started and to escape the confines of life on a small island, he enlisted in the army. He would go on to accomplish many milestones and would become the most decorated West Indian soldier in the war.
Cross went home after the war and passed the Bar but then returned to England for a more prosperous future. He worked for the BBC and met his future wife and many like-minded black men from around the world who were interested in Pan Africanism, activism, and embracing black pride. These were ideas that he had not previously embraced. He travelled to Ghana and his eyes were opened to black history and culture. It was in Ghana where his law career flourished – even to points beyond his wildest dreams. He became heavily involved in the political scene not only in Ghana but Tanzania and Cameroon. Through many highs and lows, Cross lived a life that was rich in experience and high accomplishments and accolades.
Hero is a beautifully written and directed film that effortlessly transitions between the past and the present (the present being the moments where Cross is telling his daughter all about his past). While much of the film is based in absolute fact, there are some parts – specifically segments that showed Cross’s time in Africa – where Director Solomon takes creative license. This, however, does not detract from key pieces of history that are factual. The transition between the personal interviews with Cross and his wife and cinematic dramatization are seamless. Hero is a well-balanced biographical story telling piece of cinema that will appeal to people interested in history, World War II, colonialism, race, imperialism, positive black identities and success stories.