A Caribbean Tale
"Trinidad produced 2 squadron leaders - one during war time, Ulric Cross and the other during peace time, myself," said my father aka Dr. Stephen Blizzard. Both men hailed from the same neighbourhood of Belmont, Port of Spain.
On September 5, 2018, a biopic inspired by the extraordinary life and times of Mr. Ulric Cross was released. I attended with an address from my father. In the flurry of launch activities, I never had the opportunity to deliver his words. I did however, receive an extraordinary gift in the form of a tale.
The Director of HERO, Frances-Anne Solomon, turned to me as we stood outside the Royal Theatre of College Street and said to me, "When I first came to Canada, your Dad was my doctor. I was very, very sick with measles, mumps and rubella, all at the same time. I was also very sad as I'd left all my friends back home in Trinidad. To cheer me up, your father said, 'I'm going to fly my plane for you, just outside my window,' and he left."
Later, my father flew his plane past Frances-Anne's 12th story apartment window and did a pilot's greeting - a slight wave, rocking the plane's wings from side to side. "I was 5 years old," said Frances-Anne. "He flew past my window several times. I've never forgotten that."
Upon completion of her story, we moved into the theatre with the sold out crowd to see the film. Incidentally, it had just been completed that afternoon in time for the screening.
For some reason, I thought the film would be about pilots and planes, as this was my only connection to the world of Ulric Cross. Instead, I got an education. It was a sweeping epic story that spanned continents and eras, following Cross in his work in the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. It seamlessly incorporates archival footage, with the works of brilliant actors on location in the Britain, Ghana, Trinidad and Canada. Ulric Cross is played by the compelling Nickolai Salcedo. Peter Williams is the mercurial James 'Pony' MacFarlane and British actor Joseph Marcell is Trinidad's intellectual and literary giant, C.L.R. James. These are just a few names of the highly accomplished cast.
HERO brings to light important histories and commentaries on race and class, the European grab for African resources and the development of Pan African movements to take them back. I was unaware of the integral roles played by Ulric Cross in his work as a lawyer and judge and the significant contributions of many other Caribbean people in these political movements that furthered the development of new independent African nations.
The film is a cinematographic feat by master craftswoman Frances-Anne Solomon and her team. In my mind, however, HERO will always be inextricably linked with the image of my father flying a light airplane past the window of a very sick little girl and tipping his wings.
© Gloria Blizzard is a Toronto-based writer
Photo: Hero - Frances Ann Solomon