HERO: 3 ½ STARS
At the beginning of “Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross,” a bio-doc on the life of Ulric Cross and now available on premium VOD on the Cineplex Store, the film’s subject says, “When I was appointed High Commissioner in London, the Foreign Office asked, ‘How did I wish to be addressed?’ Judge? Which I had been. Professor. Which I had been. Squadron leader? Which I had been.”
Ultimately, the Caribbean high court judge, pan-African diplomat, decorated Royal Air Force war hero and BBC producer-presenter keeps it simple.
How shall we address him? “As Ulric,” he says with a laugh.
Using a mix of archival footage and reenactments, director Frances-Anne Solomon takes a methodical approach to laying out Cross’s eventful life. Step-by-step Solomon, with the aid of slick editing from Charles Ross and effective performances from a talented cast—Nickolai Salcedo as Cross, Joseph Marcell, Pippa Nixon, Peter Williams, John Dumelo, Adjetey Anang and Prince David Oseia—tells multiple stories with Cross as the focus.
Using Cross as the focus, the film illuminates his role in the broader stories of British colonialism in the Caribbean and Africa; the moves toward peaceful liberation in Ghana, Congo, Cameroon and Tanzania; and the efforts to establish the United States of Africa. “He was part of something much bigger,” says daughter Nicola.
There is a lot happening in “Hero.” The stories of Cross’s idealism and work to change the world sit alongside some MI6 intrigue and interviews with his wife Ann. Jessica B. Hill plays Nicola, the daughter who provides a link between the archival aspects of the story and her father’s final days. “My father gave me choice,” she says. “Not once when I was growing up, did I ever feel like anything was out of reach. That was not true for him. I have that to thank him for that.”
With so much going on, “Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life & Times of Mr. Ulric Cross” falls prey to some episodic storytelling and occasionally feels rushed in its attempt to cover the width and breadth of Cross’s life. Still, the documentary works as an issue-driven look at the life of a remarkable man.