After months of writing, casting, shooting and post-production, The North Star is set to screen next week. Since principle photography was shot all over Bucks County by a cast and crew led by Buckingham's Thomas K. Phillips, it's only fitting that the film debuts in Doylestown and Newtown.
The County Theater hosts the first preview screening on Thursday, May 2 with a full afternoon of events starting at 4:30 p.m., leading up to the 6:30 p.m. red carpet rollout. The Doylestown Historical Society (DHS) has prepared historic elements from the movie to be staged along State Street before the show. The 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. screenings have sold out, but the DHS invites folks to dress up in period costumes for chance to enter a drawing for a seat to the 7:30 p.m. show.
In addition, the Doylestown Historical Society has hosted narratives and spoken word readings by members of the community each Saturday through April, in association with their correlating North Star exhibit.
The Newtown Theatre will also host a special red carpet event with members of the cast and crew on Saturday, May 4, beginning at 3:30 pm, followed by a 4:30 p.m. screening, along with additional screenings Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Written and directed by Phillips, a Buckingham native, The North Star is the true story of Big Ben Jones, a slave in the 1840’s who escapes a Virginia plantation and makes his way to Buckingham, where he receives help from local Quakers.
Ben Jones is played by former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in his feature film debut. Clifton Powell is a producer on the film and is also featured in the cast along with co-star Thomas C. Bartley, Jr. Additional cast members include John Diehl, Lynn Whitfield, April Woodall, Keith David, blues musician Guy Davis, Christopher Mann and Alana Lee. The film has been scored by the father and son collaboration of jazz legend Ramsey Lewis and acclaimed producer and musician Frayne Lewis.
"Shot in 24 days throughout 14 locations," states a release about the film, "Bucks County, Pennsylvania and its deep history as a route on the Underground Railroad is featured prominently in the film, from state parks to private homes to historic sites including The Moland House, Plumstead Meeting, and the Hammerstein House."
The Newtown Theatre played a particularly significant role as one of the locations. Phillips wrote a scene for the film in which abolitionist Frederick Douglass speaks to a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.
The Newtown Theatre dates back to 1831, and is considered the oldest continuously running movie theater in the United States. Originally built as a hall for town gatherings, the building evolved into a venue for live performances. During this time, anti-slavery meetings were held there, with such speakers as Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass.
“My wish is that The North Star will resonate positively with its audience, show the good of humanity in such a dark time in American history and shed light on the thousands of courageous individuals that took the perilous journey to freedom," says Phillips in a statement. "I hope the film will create a dialogue with audiences about how people came together for the cause of abolishing slavery.”
The North Star is produced by LuckPig Studios, a film and music production company headquartered in Doylestown and owned by Executive Producers Dave and Tracey DeLellis. With The North Star as their first feature film, LuckPig Studios and Thomas K. Phillips are collaborating on several projects currently in development.
Q&A’s with cast and crew will take place after the screenings on May 2 at The County Theater, and after the 4:30 screening at the Newtown Theatre on May 4.