GCP went to the movies last night, to see a screening of “The Watsons Go To Birmingham”, a movie based on the award-winning young adult novel written by Christopher Paul Curtis. We had high expectations, considering the source material, but we were blown away by how good it was. Engaging, entertaining, moving, made us laugh and cry (literally). In the spirit of Buzzfeed.com (a site that loves lists), here are 7 Reasons why you and your family must watch this movie tonight, Friday September 20th, when it premieres on the Hallmark Channel on at 8pm (EST):
1. It is a Superb Adaptation of a Wonderful Book. We often cringe when we hear that a favorite novel is going to film, as we fear that no movie can best our imaginations when we are enjoying a good read. But the director (Kenny Leon, recently heralded for his direction of “A Raisin in the Sun” on Broadway and television) and the writer (Tonya Lee Lewis) put those fears to rest with this movie. They bring the book to life in an engrossing and inviting way, so that whether you know the book inside and out or have never read it you will be equally charmed by the members of the Watson family and moved by their story.
2. It is Timely and Topical. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Daniel and Wilona Watson decide to drive their three children from their home in Flint, Michigan to Mrs. Watson’s childhood home in Birmingham, Alabama in the summer of 1963. They head to Birmingham to spend time with Wilona’s mother, time which they hope will positively influence their oldest son Byron, who seems headed for serious trouble on the streets of Flint. We watch the Watsons struggle to adjust to being in the segregated South. Actual footage of marches, demonstrations and political speeches which happened during that time are interwoven throughout the story. As the nation focuses on the last 50 years of our civil rights movement, these images are particularly relevant, and seeing them gives us an opportunity to tell our children what we remember or heard from our relatives about this time period. The Hallmark Channel also offers an educator’s guide that parents can use to facilitate conversations about the film, which you can find here.
3. An 11 Year Old’s Birds-eye View of Southern Life in 1963 is Illuminating. The story of the Watsons and their summer in racially tense Birmingham is told from the viewpoint of Kenny Watson, the 11-year-old bookworm. From the moment you meet him you are happy to follow this nerdy, awkward, adorable, pesky, well-meaning youngster throughout the Watson’s adventures. His heart-warming and heart-breaking experiences in Birmingham give you a perspective not otherwise found in stories about the civil rights movement.
4. It is Great to See a Close Knit African-American family on Television. The Watsons are a loving nuclear family. We don’t often get to see a loving, happy, close-knit two parent African American family on the large or small screen. They exist in real life, and we need to see them on our screens.
5. You will Delight in the Sets and the Music. Whether you were around in the 60’s or just a fan of the ’60’s, you will certainly enjoy seeing the cars and costumes and hearing the music of the era. The Watson’s car, “The Brown Bomber”, is featured prominently in the film. Seeing this vintage auto (and one of its accessories) will be a hoot for you and your children.
6. The Watson Brothers Have a Realistic, Well Developed Relationship. The relationship between Kenny and his older brother Byron is rich and complicated in this film, and the actors do a terrific job conveying all of the complexities without letting us lose sight of the family’s closeness and the characters’ love for one another. Stereotypes are judiciously and successfully avoided. This gives parents and children watching an opportunity to have good and productive conversations about the characters’ relationship, and sibling relationships in general.
7. Bringing “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” to Television is a Story of Perseverance. It took producers Tonya Lewis Lee and Nikki Silver nine years to get this film produced and on the screen. Nine years. (More on that in our interview with Tonya Lewis Lee, coming soon.) But they kept the faith, got it done, and got it done well. Inspiration for us all.
Be sure to tune in 9/20 at 8pm(EST) on the Hallmark Channel!