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Movie filmed in Huntsville has world premiere Saturday

HUNTSVILLE (AP)— Jordan Walker-Pearlman knew he needed a Southern city with the right mix of past and progress to shoot his film "Constellation," which follows members of an interracial family as they live, love and learn lessons from both.

What he didn't realize was how long it would take to find such a place.

Walker-Pearlman, director of the film starring Billy Dee Williams, Gabrielle Union and Rae Dawn Chong, happened upon the city of Huntsville in North Alabama after several scouting trips and nearly a year of searching.

The film premiers Saturday in the Rocket City and opens nationwide Feb. 2.

Finding a city that harbors a U.S. Space and Rocket Center alongside historic districts with homes from 1814 — all in a state that played a large role in the civil rights movement — was worth the wait, he said.

"I was looking all over the South and I had a horrible experience in some places, not finding what I wanted," the New York native said at a news conference Friday to kick-off a weekend of events for the film.

"The other places just didn't have this," he said. "This place is surrounded by mountains, it has modern life. It is a 21st-century city with old-world charm."

'Constellation Day'

Walker-Pearlman, Chong and Williams were on hand to receive proclamations from Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer naming Jan. 27, 2007, as "Constellation Day," their presence creating a flurry at the mayor's downtown office.

Huntsville resident Ed Wooden snagged a quick chat and handshake with Williams as the actor made his way to a white stretch limousine.

"I believe it's a lot better than it used to be," said Wooden, who is white. "People think about people as people rather than the old way of thinking with rich man against the poor man and whites against black and whatever.

"I think we're getting more to a civilized society."

The film revolves around an interracial affair between a young black woman and a white soldier that went unrequited because of racial tensions in 1950s Alabama.

Williams' character returns to Huntsville decades after leaving the turbulent South for Paris and discovers a new city with new reconciliation and new views.

The film is being praised for its depiction of Southerners outside of stereotypical roles, which many are greeting as a welcome change, Williams said.

Hundreds of tickets have been sold for the premiere, with net proceeds going to help the families of four Lee High School students who died in a bus crash in November.

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