The Planet of Junior Brown
In September of 1997, Clement Virgo premiered his third film, The Planet of Junior Brown, at the Toronto International Film Festival. Based on a 1971 book by Virginia Hamilton, and budgeted at just over $2.5 million, the film follows the life of an overweight and schizophrenic child music prodigy. Upon its release, Variety noted its “uniformly strong” cast (Kelly, 1997), which includes Martin Villifana (as the title character), Lynne Whitfield (as Junior’s mother), and Sarah Polley (as Butter). Whitfield would go on to win an NAACP Image Award for her performance, and the film itself won top honours at the Urbanworld Film Festival.
(left) From the Media Commons holdings, a grade school test and student response related to a screening of The Planet of Junior Brown.
Though Hamilton’s novel unfolded in 1970s Harlem, Virgo worked with co-writer Cameron Bailey to move the film adaptation’s setting from New York City to present-day Toronto. Many of its interior scenes are set at a house on Gloucester Street; extras were cast from people living off of the streets of downtown Toronto, cleaning cars stopped at red lights (Swedko, 1997). After premiering at TIFF, the Film Works production went on to enjoy a television run timed to CBC’s 1997 Christmas season programming.
Media Commons has in its holdings a VHS copy of this film. Access may be limited due to COVID-19 restrictions at Robarts Library. Before contacting us, please check "COVID-19: Updates on library services & operations."
The Virginia Hamilton novel upon which the film was based may currently be accessed in electronic form via HathiTrust Digital Library here.
Hunter, D. (1998). "Planet of Junior Brown". Hollywood Reporter, Feb. 19.
Kelly, B. (1997). "Film Reviews: The Planet of Junior Brown". Variety, Oct. 13.
Nurse, D. B. (1997). "Planet of Clement Virgo: In Person". Globe & Mail, Nov. 29.
Roman, M. (1998). "Black Filmers Find Niche at Urbanworld". Variety, Aug. 17.
Swedko, P. (1997). "On Set: The Planet of Junior Brown". Playback, Apr. 21.