Movie features Southern Illinois talent

Matt Hawkins

A tale from 1773 St. Genevieve, Mo., will be told on the silver screen this weekend through the efforts of more than 100 heartland residents.

“Under These Same Stars—the Celadon Affair,” an independent film scripted by Dan Johnson which includes Williamson County actors, will show in Carbondale this weekend and Marion later in November.

The movie, based on Dr. Carl Ekberg’s work “Stealing Indian Women,” recounts events surrounding the trial of St. Genevieve trapper Celedon, who was accused of killing a Native American slave woman. According to Ekberg’s research, Celedon fell in love with another Native American slave, Marianne, and he helped her escape.

“Under These Same Stars” mixes romance and humor with the historical backdrop.

“It was an era not only of colonial rule, but an era of Native American slavery,” movie writer Bob Streiter said. “A woman could go from slave to slave owner if fortunate in her marriage. It was a really complex time in history, but maybe not so complex back then. People were trying to survive on the frontier.”

In an era of Hollywood’s heavy action flicks, Streit felt this film offered a needed change-up.

“It’s kind of refreshing to have a film that sits down beside you to tell a story,” he said.

The story reached Streiter after it passed through Ekberg’s family. Ekberg’s sister, Anne Johnson, passed it to her son, Dan Johnson, who gave it to Streiter to write.

“He (Ekberg) kept encountering (stories) and figured,'Gee, I’d better write this down,” Streiter said. “It was a slow gestation. There were cool documents to be read. It’s arguably one of best-documented events of that era that exists.”

Johnson directed the film and received credit by the author for keeping the film authentic to its era despite distractions of modern advances in St. Genevieve and the region.

“The historic homes on the east side of town are surrounded by modern busy streets and the train runs,” Streiter said. “At any given moment you could have cars, train whistles and barges being pushed upriver. He was very conscious of camera angles. He went to lengths to take you with us back to 1773.”

The cast includes Marion’s Bill Hamer, who played Francois Valle-the French militia captain who investigated the slave death and kidnapping incidents.

Hamer initially expected to play a minor role, but ended as a major character.

“I thought I got an innkeeper position,” he said. “I was surprised to get a fairly significant role. I actually bookend the movie.”

Hamer, an experienced stage actor, had to adapt his craft to the nuances of film.

“It’s a completely different purpose,” he said. “When you’re onstage, you do everything very large, but with the camera you have to restrain your actions.”

The project came together as volunteers offered their services and belongings for the movie.

“Re-enactors come out of the woodwork to loan costumes, props, weapons, horses and property,” Streit said. “It started with a historian inspiring his sister and she’s so interested in seeing the story get to a wider audience that she puts money to it. The son talks to me, we round up 100 volunteers and we’re up and running. It was a pretty good run.”

“Under These Same Stars” debuted in St. Genevieve and will soon have Southern Illinois showings. The film will show Nov. 7 in Carbondale and Nov. 24 in Marion.


“Under These Same Stars—the Celadon Affair”

Saturday, Nov. 7: 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at SIU’s Morris Library

Tickets: $7 adults, $5 students

Tickets will be available at the door or in advance at The BookWorm (618 E. Walnut St., Carbondale)

Tuesday, Nov. 24: 7 p.m. at Marion Cultural and Civic Center

Tickets: $7 adults, $5 students

Tickets will be available at the door or reserved by calling the box office at (618) 997-4030.