"Woodlawn is based on the true story of how love and unity overcame hate and division in early 1970s Birmingham, Ala. Tony Nathan (newcomer Caleb Castille) lands in a powder keg of anger and violence when he joins fellow African-American students at Woodlawn High School after its government-mandated desegregation in 1973. The Woodlawn Colonels football team is a microcosm of the problems at the school and in the city, which erupts in cross burnings and riots. Coach Tandy Gerelds (Nic Bishop) is at a loss to solve these unprecedented challenges with his disciplinarian ways.
It’s only when Hank (Sean Astin), an outsider who has been radically affected by the message of hope and love he experienced at a Christian revival meeting, convinces Coach Gerelds to let him speak to the team that something truly remarkable begins to happen. More than 40 players, nearly the entire team, black and white, give their lives over to the “better way” Hank tells them is possible through following Jesus, and the change is so profound in them it affects their coach, their school and their community in ways no one could have imagined." Also starring Academy Award winner Jon Voight.
Wow. The opening scenes of Woodlawn are gut-wrenching. Historical news footage of 1973 Birmingham, the desegregation of schools and the violence surrounding this time only served to underline and emphasize the setting and time frame of the movie. This isn't an imagined story - this is real. And not so very long ago. Birmingham? It was the most thoroughly segregated city in the US. And had the sad nickname of Bombingham, due to the over 50 racial bombings that occurred in the city beginning in 1947. In 1963, then governor George Wallace declared that schools would never be desegregated.
Unbelievable right? But this is the part that is even more unbelievable - that a racially charged sports team and school accepted Hank's message of faith - and that message spread.
Every actor did a phenomenal job, but props go out to newcomer Caleb Castille - I thought he was really good. I was glued to my screen the entire film, caught up in this recreation of actual events. Just incredibly well done from the actors, to the set, recreating time and place, the football games - and the inclusion of historical footage.
And as I watched, I was outraged, I cried, but I also laughed and I felt a sense of hope. If this could happen in that time and place.....just maybe it can happen again - and again and again.
This is a fantastic film with an uplifting, powerful message of belief, faith, hope and of change. Check out the trailer below. And don't forget to enter to win a Woodlawn prizepack here.
From Director Andy Erwin: "Woodlawn is a special movie with a perspective that America – believer and nonbeliever alike – needs to hear today. “I’m passionate about the truth that the only way to overcome hate is by a greater law – and that’s love and forgiveness. And Jesus is the ultimate way to receive and give both love and forgiveness."