In 1941, a young man from Trinidad, left his home in Belmont, Port Spain for England to join the Royal Air Force (RAF).
His name was Ulric Cross and he fought in the Second World War and became the most decorated airman from the Caribbean.
He joined the RAF’s elite Pathfinder Force as a navigator completing 80 bombing missions in Wooden Wonder mosquito planes. He was nicknamed the Black Hornet.
But how did a war hero become a crucial figure in helping some African nations including Ghana, to cement legal frameworks post independence?
The film 'Hero: Inspired by the Extraordinary Life and Times of Mr. Ulric Cross', shines a light on how Ulric became politically active.
It also spotlights how he was pivotal in helping to shape the constitutions of newly independent nations in west and east Africa.
What is most striking about his story in the film was that none of these appointments would have been possible if he had not met George Padmore and CLR James - two key figures in the Pan Africanist movement.
Through their influence, Ulric was able to use his legal training as a lawyer. And between 1958 and 1960, he worked closely with Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, as a senior crown counsel and lectured in criminal law at the Ghana School of Law.
He also helped to support the development of the constitution for the Republic of Cameroon as a senior crown counsel, attorney general and was a member of the cabinet, the house of chiefs and the House of Assembly Avocat-General at the Federal Court of Justice.
And while in Tanzania in 1967, he became a high court judge and served as a professor of law at the University of Dar es Salaam.
I watched it for the first time earlier this month. I found the mix of iconic archived footage (including independence night in Ghana and Lord Kitchener’s arrival on Windrush) , and dramatic scenes played by actors fascinating to watch and hugely engaging.
The biggest insight for me was learning how the children of the diaspora – the lawyers from the Caribbean - were instrumental in helping to develop the legal framework for the constitutions of these newly independent nations.
There is a section in the film where Ulric expresses his frustration at not being able to practise law in either Trinidad or the UK. It seems that in Trinidad, there was a surplus of lawyers but on the African continent, these lawyers were highly valued. And for a slice of his life, this was where Ulric was able to make a difference.
Although I am aware of the impact that people like George Padmore had and have in Ghana, I did not know about the role that Ulric played.
The film debut in 2018 and in 2021, it was made available on Amazon Prime.
Putting Ghana on the map
I learnt from Albert Owusu-Ansah, who was a cinematographer on the film that ‘Hero’ was filmed in Ghana, Trinidad, UK and Canada.
“It's really putting Ghana on the map,” he told AKADi Magazine after learning that the film would be available online on Amazon Prime. “The movie is historic and informative. It takes us back to the independence and post-independence era, the Pan African struggle and the contributions of Ulric Cross and George Padmore in our history.”
The film was produced and directed by Frances-Anne Solomon and won an award in the 2019 Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Diaspora Narrative Feature Film category and the following year was nominated at the Pan Africa Film Festival in Los Angeles.
When asked what the best thing was about working on the production, he said: “It was the collaboration between the local crew and the foreign crew as well as the local cast and the foreign cast.
“There was a cordial working relationship and an exchange of ideas. We worked like we'd been working together for years.
“I worked as a production coordinator, a camera assistant and a the behind-the-scenes camera person. I got them the filming permit in Ghana and to top it all, I was the local coordinator here in Ghana. Anything they want in Ghana I am the one they fall on. The relationship between me and the Hero family is endless.
“Some of the foreign cast included Jimmy Akingbola (Dr Kwame Nkrumah), Pippa Nixon (Ann Cross), Fraser James (George Padmore), Nickolai Salcedo (Ulric Cross) - the lead character. Unfortunately, Joseph Marcell’s (C.L.R James) scenes weren't filmed in Ghana if my memory serves me right. [Joseph is well known for his role as the butler Jeffrey in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.]
“Our local actors included: Kofi Adjorlolo (Asantehene), John Dumelo (PK Asante), Adjetey Anang (Patrice Lumumba) and Ecow Smith-Asante Eduardo Mondlane), Kenneth Fiati (Ahmadou Ahidjo) and Eddie Nartey (Eddie Frimpong).”
Albert has worked in the film and television industry for almost 30 years. He's worked as a director, producer, cinematographer, photographer and a fixer.