'The Watsons Go To Birmingham'

The film is more about family than civil rights

By Ronda Rocha Penrice | 9/13/2013, 6 a.m.
Five days following the 50th anniversary of the horrific bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, the ...
Based on the award-winning novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, the film places the fictional Watson family in the turbulent city during the tragic bombing that claimed the lives of Addie Mae Collins, 14; Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14; and Cynthia Wesley, 14. (Hallmark Channel Photo).

“I wanted to really keep that family dynamic,” she explained. “For those of you who have read the book, the film is definitely different in that we spent more time in Birmingham than the book does and, really to Walden’s credit, they really wanted us to get a chance to see what confronting segregation would be like.”

Consequently, the film uses the children to show the limitations of Jim Crow and how it affected where you ate, how you watched a movie and other activities young people simply take for granted today.

The film even acknowledges the Children’s March, underscoring the important role young people played in Birmingham in particular to bring about one of this country’s greatest social revolutions. It was particularly moving for Leon, who admitted to the audience “I didn’t know as much as I should have about the role of 13 and 14 year-olds in the Movement.”

And he is certainly not alone. As the nation continues to remember and assess where race relations stand since 1963, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” can serve as a teaching tool in many households. Thanks to its engaging tone and genuine chemistry among the young actors, The Watsons Go to Birmingham makes sharing a very difficult chapter in this country’s history a lot easier for families.