Sunday, February 28, 2016
THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM (2013)
Directed By: Kenny Leon
Written By: Tonya Lewis Lee, Stephen Glantz & Caliope Brattlestreet
Cinematography By: James Chressanthis
Editor: Margaret Godspeed
Cast: Wood Harris, Anika Noni Rose, Harrison Knight, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Latanya Richardson, David Alan Grier, Shameik Moore, Josephine Lawrence, E. Roger Mitchell
The Watsons set out on a family road trip where their experiences give them a newfound courage to stand up for what is right and helps them grow stronger as a family in the process.
The film is shot like a television movie and treats the subject matter of civil rights as such. As It's heart this film is a coming of age story that offers a glimpse at the difference between the north and south for an African-American family. During the civil rights movement.
I am not going to lie the film plays very basic and by the numbers throughout, but manages to really become powerful in the second half where as up to a point it has been a clean well meaning film. Then a twist happens that comes out of nowhere that really makes it's impression and strength felt. That manages to really hit home and expose the audience like it's characters to the ramifications, ugliness and cruelty of racism. In a movie that thankfully never utters the dreaded and ugly N-word, but makes the atmosphere of segregation and those who want it to stay that way felt.
Though it doesn't paint all of it's Caucasian characters as racist. Making some of them only follow the rules out of law, but still try to keep civil and treat African-Americans as fellow human beings.
Like I said this isn't the greatest filmed civil rights story, but shows a strength and manages to grow on you as you watch it to bypass or ignore it's shortcomings. It is also nice to see a positive African-American nuclear family on the big screen. That actually has fewer minor problems then racism. Like the oldest son becoming more and more rebellious. The smart younger son who is practically afraid of his own shadow. Reuniting with family and disagreeing with some of the hanged they have made since they last saw you.
Maybe as I have family in the south some of these scenes really resonated with me and hit home. It is a film that spotlights African American culture in a positive way. That can show the beauty in the culture and a certain pride in what African Americans had to deal with and what they overcame and unfortunately still have to deal with as actions of that time have a way of reverberating into the future and now. Where it seems there is a whole new fight to be had in the search for equality.
If looking for a nice family film to expose your children to the civil rights era. Not so much political but on a more personal level. This film seems perfect as emotional as it is. It seems to tackle the subject delicately and with more kid gloves. Rather then down and dirty. Just be prepared for the more emotional second half of the film and break out the tissues.