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Nearly ten years after the Civil Rights movement rocked the country racial tensions still run high in the Alabama town of Birminham. More than high, in fact. Buses still burn, windows are smashed, African Americans are still beaten in the streets. The school system is not any different. But all that is about to change. From Pure Flix Entertainment comes a film based on a remarkable true story, Woodlawn.When the all white Woodlawn High is forced to integrate five hundred black students, bused from the other side of town, it is like a powder keg primed for an explosion. And explode it does. Tensions run high between students and teachers, and the student to student relationship? Well let’s just say kids are being sent to the hospital on a weekly basis. The football team, forced to integrate like the rest of the school, is even worse. The school is steadily marching its way toward a complete shutdown when Hank suddenly arrives in town. While the coach at first resists Hanks efforts to speak to the team, he finally relents-- thinking things can not get any worse. Much to his surprise, it get’s better. Much better. The entire team-- black and white-- give their lives over to Christ, and the result is a remarkable transformation of forgiveness and love that filters first to the school and then to the town.
As a boy Tony Nathan’s (played by Caleb Castille) childhood was filled with burning buses, riots, beatings, and broken windows. Now that he is in high school nothing seems to have changed. Sure, Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement brought “equality,” but no one seems to have seen anything changing in the town of Birmingham, Alabama. It might just be getting worse. Tony, like the rest of the African American population of Birmingham, knows that the landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. The Board of Education mandated all public schools be desegregated, and while that would be a wonderful event, they are all to scared of the consequences to make it happen. The Feds are tired of the south’s stubborn resistance to the laws and regulations of the Civil Rights movement. Pleading, promises, and persuasion have not done the trick, and they are ready to use force. Tony is one of the “lucky” five hundred, set attend Woodlawn High-- the all white school on the other side of town-- and start the forced integration of Birmingham’s schools. Woodlawn star Tony Nathan arrives at Woodlawn High on the first day, but it does not go so. . .great. In fact, it is awful, and it gets worse. Beatings, distrust, racial prejudice, name calling, and unfair rules plague the school. The football team, of which Tony is a part, is no better-- it might be worse. Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) does not support the integration, and he makes that clear. Anger fuels his coaching, and anger drives his team. As the school tears itself apart, the football team does its best to do worse. Everything is set for a full and complete shutdown of the school, but then Hank (Sean Astin) shows up. Hank is a sport chaplin who’s life was radically transformed at a Billy Graham revival meeting. He wants to speak to the team at Woodlawn, but Coach Geralds refuses. Things look like they are going downhill for the characters of Woodlawn, and when they hit rock bottom Gerald’s relents. Hank has the floor. An hour later the entire team has committed their lives to Christ. They agree to forgive, to forget, to be forgiven, and to love one another. Black and white, they are brothers now-- they are a team. Their changed attitudes and reconciliation are a difficult start, but soon the racial prejudice gives way to genuine love, compassion, and teamwork. Slowly, their wave trickles down to the rest of the school, and then sweeps into the town, mostly thanks to the poor black kid from the other side of town, Tony Nathan.
Woodlawn is based on the remarkable true story of the real Birmingham Woodlawn High. The forced integration of the school in the 1970s left the town, and school, torn apart. The racial predjudices that had been ingrained for generations reared their ugly heads, and the town itself fell apart. The citizens soon found themselves looking for a beacon of hope, and they found one. Two actually. Jesus, and the young football player Tony Nathan who would not give up. They needed something to bring them together and show them they were the same. They found that in football. Woodlawn is a history lesson combined with a story about compassion, love, kindness, perseverance, and acceptance. Its a story that opens viewers eyes to a dark spot in this nation’s history, but shows them that even in that time glimmers of light still shone. Woodlawn will inspire viewers to look at the world through the eyes of Jesus, who sees neither color or ability, but people with talents and hearts. The film will challenge viewers to persevere in their own battles, much like Tony Nathan, because they can never see what good will come out of their steadfast courage and love.
Woodlawn was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for thematic elements including some racial tension/violence. This film received the “Faith Friendly” award for ages twelve and up from the Dove Foundation, and a four and a half out of five from Focus on the Family’s Plugged In. As always, it is recommend that parents preview all content to determine what is suitable for their children, but the film Woodlawn is considered appropriate for most audiences.
In 1973, a spiritual awakening captured the heart of nearly every player of the Woodlawn High School Football team.
We really enjoyed this movie in the theater and love owning it to share with friends. Right from my era! (Posted on 2/1/16)
Nicely done! (Posted on 2/1/16)