“The Watson’s Go To Birmingham”

Set your DVR's for a special treat on the Hallmark Channel, as a part of the new Friday night “Walden Family Theatre” series.  The beloved book "The Watson's Go To Birmingham" comes to life on the screen, this Friday, 9/20, 8 PM (ET/PT) with a talented cast, starring Tony® Award winner and Grammy® Award nominee Anika Noni Rose (“The Good Wife,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Princess and the Frog”).  Also starring are three-time Tony® Award nominee and Grammy® Award nominee David Alan Grier ("Porgy and Bess," "PEEPLES," “In Living Color”), Skai Jackson (“Jessie”), Wood Harris (“The Wire,” “Remember The Titans”), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (“The Fighting Temptations”), Pauletta Washington (“Beloved”), Bryce Clyde Jenkins (“Easy A,” “Have A Little Faith”) and Harrison Knight (“We the Party”).

Tonik Productions is one of the many companies responsible for bringing this project to fruition.   Nikki Silver is an Emmy® Award- winning producer and chief creator of ToniK Productions. Tonya Lee Lewis has partnered with Nikki Silver to form this production company.  Nikki Silver has been persistent in her efforts to see the book, The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, published by Random House Children’s Books, come alive on the screen.

“The Watsons Go To Birmingham” is presented by ARC Entertainment, Walden Media, Walmart and Procter & Gamble and is a ToniK Production. Louis J. Grieci III, Ben Simon, Janet M. Morrison, Aaron Tucker, Jim Bechtold, Trevor Drinkwater, Brad Liebow and Brian Wells serve as executive producers and Philip Kleinbart, Nikki Silver and Tonya Lewis Lee serve as producers.  Tonya Lewis Lee, Stephen Glantz and Caliope Brattlestreet wrote the teleplay and Kenny Leon is the director. 

Photo Left to Right: Kenny Leon, Anika Noni Rose, Harrison Knight, Nikki Silver
According to director, Kenny Leon, “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is “a love story, a family story, that the whole family can sit down and watch and do that one thing together.  Laugh together, think together, even shed a tear together but this movie is all about family and all about love, just what the Hallmark channel represents.”

 Photo: Kenny Leon and Anika Noni Rose Photo: Tonya Lewis Lee                                                

On Tuesday evening, I attended the Red Carpet Washington DC premiere of this film at the Newseum, as part of the press for PWC Moms. Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where the majority of the movie takes place, also attended this amazing event.  The Mayor of Birmingham brought artifacts from this historic time in Birmingham to the event for a temporary display that evening.  The artifacts included: Pews from the16th St. Baptist Church; a segregated lunch counter; a segregated water fountain; mug shots of people arrested after the e Children’s Crusade march and shrapnel from the church bombing.  The artifacts brought you back to a time in history where there was a movement for equal rights and for humanity.

The film takes place in 1963, upon the anniversary of life changing events during the civil right movement.  As children, we are taught facts about this era of time but this movie brings in the human spirit through the eyes of an 12 year old African American child experiencing racism firsthand in Birmingham, Alabama.

Photo of Honorable William A. Bell, Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, AL, and a photo of segregated water fountains

This is a movie that every family in America should watch as it portrays so accurately what it would be like to experience racism and bullying during the civil rights movement in the South.  Tonya Lee Lewis states “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham” is about a Northern family that travels to Birmingham and experiences racism, up close and personal, during the summer of 1963.”  During the film, the family comes closer together and overcomes fear and develops courage to stand up for what is right.

Through the eyes of a “tween” who attended the screening, Amada, 12 years old, believes that “kids should watch this film because they will take away the important message that it's important to understand our history so that it will not ever be repeated again." 

When I asked the director, Kenny Leon, what questions we should be asking our kids when we watch this movie together he stated these two crucial questions “Do you know what racism is?” Do you know what bullying is?” He said, as a parent, we must discuss with our kids the events that took place during 1963 and discuss the injustice at that time but also remind them of the good people in the world who influence positive changes.  He said that “Ultimately, Love Wins!”

The performances of the cast are stellar and especially noteworthy is Bryce Clyde Jenkin’s performance of 12 year old Kenny Watson.  By the end of the movie, you will have laughed, cried and experience critical thinking about the civil rights movement.  This movie will speak meaningful conversations between families.

If you miss the world premiere of “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” on the Hallmark channel on Friday, 9/20/13, the movie will also encores on 9/27/13 and 10/11/13, at 8 PM (ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.  The DVD will be released on September 24th and it will be sold at Wal-Mart.

For educators, Walden Media has partnered with the Hallmark Channel and Zaner-Bloser Educational Publishers to create turnkey lessons plans for grades 4-12 that coincide with the themes and messages explored in this movie. “The Watsons Go To Birmingham Teacher Guide,” which will be free of charge on a dedicated Hallmark Channel microsite and the Walden Media website www.walden.com, encourages active student participation, while integrating social-emotional learning, literacy, writing and character education designed to reinforce critical thinking and deep comprehension skills.

I highly recommend this movie and your children that are in grade school, junior high and high school.  After the movie, set aside a time to discuss any questions that your children may have and explore the civil rights themes presented during “The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.”  I hope your family enjoys watching this film as much as I did! 
This post was written by Amy Fitzgerald, who attended on behalf of PwcMoms.com

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