Old-fashioned entertainment with a Southern flair

Lapacazo Sandoval | 8/22/2013, 11:24 a.m. | Updated on 8/22/2013, 11:24 a.m.
“Savannah” (directed, produced and written by Annette Haywood-Carter) is a true story based on the bombastic and charismatic Ward Allen ...
"Savannah"

“Savannah” (directed, produced and written by Annette Haywood-Carter) is a true story based on the bombastic and charismatic Ward Allen (Jim Caviezel), who turns his handsome, rugged back on his plantation heritage for an adventurous life on the mysterious river.

Allen navigates the changes of early 20th century America on the wrong side of the antiquated laws and societal pressures; instead, he carves out a unique place for himself in the landscape of the South.

A master of Shakespeare and the shotgun (no duck stands a chance when Ward takes aim), he and his best friend, freed slave Christmas Moultrie (Chiwetel Ejiofer), and their faithful hound, provide Savannah’s market with quality fowl.

His rugged good looks and eloquent rhetoric win the heart of a stunning society woman, who defies her father and marries him. Ward loves the “drink” as much as he loves his freedom, so his marital conflicts are also part of the complex story.

An elderly Christmas tells the story of river life to a little boy, who passes the stories of Ward Allen and Christmas down to the next generation.

They are truly tall tales, but they are, in fact, mostly true and based on John “Jack” Eugene Cay Jr.’s “Ward Allen: Savannah River Market Hunter,” a collection of non-fiction anecdotes that were written originally as a paper for the Madeira Club and later self-published by Executive Producer John Cay’s father, Jack Cay.

“Savannah” is a great family movie choice. The film has a positive African-American role model and shows enduring cultural value of the griot. It stresses the value of friendship despite society’s pressures. It’s also directed with style and genuine affection, making every frame as unforgettable as the last.

It’s also interesting to note that “Savannah,” is helmed by a woman, Annette Haywood-Carter, who has 30 years of experience in the industry, having earned seals of approval from Steven Spielberg, Bruce Cohen (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy”) and Saul Zaentz (“Amadeus”), to name a few.

“Growing up in the South, I am steeped in the traditions and values that were passed down through the generations, and appreciate them deeply,” said Haywood-Carter. “I am also witness to the complex relationships between the races—the love and mutual respect that is rarely depicted in movies about the South.”

The real star of this film is the Southern landscape, which is breathtakingly presented by Director of Photography Mike Ozier. Ozier and his camera crew understand how to romance the eye and keep it glued to the screen. The majority of his work can be seen in big budget commercials (Audi, Nike, Nissan), but his framing for “Savannah” is akin to flipping though a lush picture book.

Acclaimed critic Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, after reviewing Ozier’s work on the indie film “Bottle Shock,” said that Ozier is “a cinematographer to watch.”

“Savannah” is a family treasure, and I suggest that you include this in your Netflix list of flicks you must download for the holiday season.

“Savannah” opens Friday, August 23.