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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: October 17, 2015.

The movie Woodlawn has come out of the cinema gate running well!

The chaplain for the Woodlawn high school football team was the Erwin Brothers’ father, Hank Erwin, who led the football team in Birmingham, Alabama, in the midst of horrible racial violence, to reconciliation and revival that affected and involved their rival team, leading the city and beyond to redemption.

Varight says, “This is the season for faith-based…movies.  War Room was first in the box office one week (it’s second week, beating out Straight Outta Compton) and has now taken in over $60m… Captive garnered about $2.5m and 90 Minutes in Heaven was nearly at $5m! Now we have Woodlawn – based on a true story – how Christian love can help heal racial divisions…even has Bear Bryant (Jon Voight)…”

Forbes reports on October 17, after Woodlawn‘s opening night. “The …semi-wide release Woodlawn… a PureFlix film debuting in 1,533 theaters…about high school football amid 70′s-era desegregation and racial tensions.. earned $1.5 million on Friday which sets the stage for a $4.3m weekend.”

World on October 17  reports on “Woodlawn” saying that it is “…the true story of the integration of an Alabama high-school football team and the rise of former Miami Dolphins running back, Tony Nathan (nicely played by Caleb Castille). What the PG-rated Woodlawn does well, it does very well, giving audiences not just a context for the reverberations of racial strife we’re still feeling today, but also a vision for the only solution to overcoming that strife.”

The acting is wonderful in this movie. This film features many legendary movie and media personalities. Jon Voight (legendary actor and father of Angelina Jolie) as Paul Bryant, Sean Astin (son of Patty Duke, veteran actor known as Frodo’s side-kick in Lord of the Ring) as Hank, Sherri Shepard (veteran actor known as co-host on The View)  as Momma Nathan, Devon Franklin (legendary producer) as Preacher, Caleb Castille (upcoming actor, beautifully cast for this film) as Tony Nathan, were all delightful in their performances.

The Hollywood Reporter gives a favorable review of Woodlawn. They state,”… the film…succeeds in achieving…delivering a feel-good, real-life inspirational story in a mostly engaging fashion. With its well-staged gridiron sequences and solid ensemble performances, Woodlawn may even manage to lure viewers away from their televised football games over the next couple of weeks.”

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have served as executive producers for Woodlawn.  On October 17, they provide updated reports, videos, and behind-the-scenes information for the movie, including footage from the powerful simulcast they gave this week with national leaders to introduce the movie and the movement of reconciliation and revival that is growing across the nation.  Jon and Andrew Erwin ( known for October Baby and Mom’s Night Out) direct this Pure Flix, Provident Films movie and also can be seen in online ongoing, behind-the-scenes footage and reports.

The Hollywood Reporter covers the history of the actual events on which the movie is based. They tell how the real-life Woodlawn High School football team played in a history-making 1973 game that attracted 42,000 spectators with another 20,000 turned away. They say, “…With the recent wave of faith-based films making a real impact at the box-office, Woodlawn could prove a significant draw…”

The movie is set racially violent and torn Birmingham, Alabama, where in 1963 a bomb thrown into a crowded African American church today had tragically killed four girls in their Sunday school classes and led to violence that left two more persons dead. Racial divisions, tensions and violence continued into the 70’s when the true events on which Woodlawn is based took place.

Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) exhorts his star tailback Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille) to dig deep in a key game against their team’s biggest rivals in 'Woodlawn'; Photo Courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment.

Coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop) exhorts his star tailback Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille) to dig deep in a key game against their team’s biggest rivals in ‘Woodlawn’; Photo Courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment.

The movie shows how after Woodlawn high school becomes integrated how its football coach Tandy Gerelds (Nic Bishop) welcomes the arrival of such talented black players as Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille, who make a wonderful screen debut). The Woodlawn team still struggles to compete against their rivals at Banks High School, led by Coach Shorty White (C. Thomas Howell). But finally, black and white football players on both the Woodlawn and Banks teams experience reconciliation, led by Chaplain Hank Erwin.

This is definitely a movie to enjoy on the big screen surrounded by appreciative, applauding audiences. It will be exciting to watch the impact of the movie in facilitating reconciliation, redemption, and revival across the nation for a time such as this!


Written by Diane Howard, Ph.D. (Performance Studies),

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