“Freedom’s Path,” premiering in more than 200 AMC and Regal Theatres nationwide beginning February 3, is a new film commemorating Black History Month. Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group (AMG) free-streaming digital platform, HBCU GO—the leading media provider for the nation’s 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—is partnering on the film to promote it to HBCUs and will donate a portion of ticket sales to HBCUs that support the arts.
This is the first film to tell the story of autonomous African Americans during this time period, representing the over 250,000 free African Americans that lived in the South during the Civil War. “Freedom’s Path” tells the story of a young, white Union soldier who, after deserting from battle, soon discovers the real meaning of freedom through a young heroic Black man.
Centered in and around the Underground Railroad, “Freedom’s Path” is focused on a unique friendship forged between the soldier (‘William’ portrayed by Gerran Howell) and free man (‘Kitch’ portrayed by actor/executive producer RJ Cyler).
When William flees from battle, rescue comes unexpectedly from Kitch and his band of friends. Risking everything, Kitch takes William deep into the woods to the safety of his adopted home. It is here that William discovers Kitch is a part of a secret community of freed slaves, who run a portion of the Underground Railroad. However, when a ruthless and desperate slave catcher (Ewen Bremner) discovers the underground network, he conspires to bring it burning down to the ground.
RJ Cyler is outstanding in his role as a freed slave who lived with Caddy, played by Carol Sutton, and Abner, played by Thomas Jefferson Byrd and other family members way off in the forest. Sutton and Byrd are two actors who died during post production—Sutton due to complications of COVID in late 2020, and Byrd tragically murdered that same year in Atlanta. Byrd previously had starred in many Spike Lee films, and I met him in 2015 when he was in Chicago around the time of release for “Chiraq.” Kitch and his family members are essentially waiting for the War to end and the slaves are freed so they can welcome as many as they can into their home.
While out one day, Kitch runs across William who has deserted because he wasn’t cut out for battle. He stabs himself in the leg to feign an injury, and Kitch was committed to helping him until he can fend on his own.
Kitch helps lead runaway slaves and, in a simple act of sympathy for a white boy, he now has even more paddy rollers after him. But in a strange twist of humanity, William becomes like family.
There’s a scene where the slave catchers pit the two against each other, after they nearly lynch Kitch. William is hesitant because he has grown close to Kitch and his adopted family’s way of life. Their relationship reminds me of Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis in “The Defiant Ones.” The two of them are glued to the hip, so to speak.
A number of sad situations occur, and the paddy rollers prevail, but in the end, William is left alone and makes a brave decision to re-join the Union Army—in what I suspect is an act of homage to his late friend Kitch and the idea of freedom for slaves across the nation.
For more information about “Freedom’s Path” and its roll out on February 3 across the nation in observance of Black History Month, visit freedomspathfilm.com.