“Savannah” opens in theaters in select cities this weekend

Savannah opens this weekend in select cities around the country, including New York, Atlanta, Kansas City, Dallas, Charlotte, and Palm Beach.

Of course, the movie also makes it debut in regular theatrical release here in Savannah.

This is a big deal. Savannah is not only set in the local area, but was also written, produced, and filmed here, and based on local history.

The headline actors — Jim Caviezel, Sam Shepard, Jaimie Alexander, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jack McBrayer, and Hal Holbrook — all have major films on their resumes.

From Linda Sickler’s article in Do in today’s Savannah Morning News:

Savannah is one of 12 cities chosen across the country for the opening-day release of the film, set for Aug. 23 at Victory Square Cinema. Written by Kenneth F. Carter and Annette Haywood-Carter, it tells the story of Ward Allen of Savannah, who rejected his heritage of wealth to provide markets with fowl he hunted along the Savannah River in the early 20th century.

With his longtime friend, freed slave Christmas Moultrie, Allen fought for his rights as a hunter.

Along the way, he won the hand and heart of his high-society wife, Lucy, who defied her father to marry him.

The screenplay is based on a book, “Ward Allen: Savannah River Market Hunter,” written by John “Jack” Eugene Cay Jr. A collection of anecdotes, it was originally written as a paper for the Madeira Club and was later self-published as a book.

Here’s the list of cities where the movie will run this weekend and next, embedded from the movie’s active Facebook page:

Check out the Facebook invitation for the “red carpet screening” at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 23 here in Savannah. That page contains information on how to buy tickets for that special event.

I first wrote about the film in a City Talk column in spring 2012 after seeing a special screening at Trustees Theater, which was attended largely by the local crew, cast, production team, and assorted friends.

From that column:

The lush visuals of “Savannah” fittingly focus more on area waterways than on our iconic architecture.

After all, the highly educated Allen feels compelled to challenge himself with “the test of wildness.”

And that turns out to be a tough test.

Allen seems dispirited by the beginnings of industrialization along the Savannah River. And government limits on duck hunting, first treated by Allen as a joke, eventually catch up with him.

And time is always nipping at his heels, as his relationships with his friend Christmas and his wife Lucy are sorely tested.

From a followup blog post:

I’m not going to include spoilers here, but the film was darker in its themes than I expected. And that’s a good thing. There are some deeply sad elements to Ward Allen’s story — and to the story of Christmas Moultrie, the last child born into slavery at Mulberry Grove Plantation and later Allen’s hunting friend and assistant. The multi-layered narrative doesn’t shy from those dark moments.

The movie hits some themes that I would call truly conservative — the despoiling of the natural environment and the creeping restrictions of modernity on American individualism and libertarianism. Sometimes those twin impulses come into stark conflict for the increasingly troubled Allen.

The darker plot turns and themes are going to surprise some viewers, and I could imagine that some won’t feel closely enough connected to the individual characters.

But there’s a tragic majesty to the story of Ward Allen.

A strong opening weekend could be a boon not only for Savannah but also for the city of Savannah and its future as a filmmaking hub.

So if you’re even halfway interested in seeing the film and judging it for yourself, you might want to check it out in the next few days.

Here’s one of the trailers (go full screen to enjoy this to its full effect):