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WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, THE

What to know: Stunning film about segregation with a great moral: You can't ive your life in fear and live a good life.
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
Recommended age 8-18
86 minutes
DVD
ARCLIGHT STUDIOS
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WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, THE cover image Click to play video trailer
This powerful, historical fiction takes place in 1963. The plot follows our protagonist Kenny (Bryce Clyde Jenkins) and his African American family from their house in Flint, Michigan to their family home in Birmingham, Alabama. While in Alabama, Kenny and his siblings are introduced to segregation and all its inhumanity. In Michigan they lived free from sequestration except for what they experienced on TV. This film is seeded with real life situations and old black and white clips that are sewn together quite skillfully.

What I love about the film is the outstanding acting. The kids couldn't be better. The characters go through so much they're able to express a lot of emotion and does it show! I don't know if you've noticed, but there have been a lot of films about segregation this year; 42, Lee Daniels The Butler and more to come. What makes this film stand out is that the story is from 10-year-old Kenny's perspective. When we view the world through a black adult's eyes, we know they've probably experienced segregation. From a child's level, we see they can't comprehend why they're treated poorly because of their skin color. That's what makes it more powerful.

My favorite character is Kenny. I relate to him because he's sort of a nerd, kindhearted and in this film, confused. I like to see how he deals with the different situations he's placed in. Jenkins does a tremendous job portraying this character.

My favorite scene is when Kenny almost drowns. Kenny is swimming in the lake and gets sucked down into a whirlpool. Luckily, his brother Byron (Harrison Knight) saves him. This scene is intense and I got a little teary-eyed when Byron embraces Kenny and won't let go.

The moral is, "You can't live your life in fear and live a good life." After the drowning incident Kenny thinks the whirlpool (Whir Poo) is out to get him so he magnifies emotional situations to the point of over-whelming dread.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this for 9-year-olds and up. I think this film is very educational. It's a perfect film to show younger audiences and it has that family element to it that makes it entertaining. Reviewed by Keefer C. Blakeslee, Age 13 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. Airing on the Hallmark Channel September 20 and available at Walmart September 26.

This film is historical fiction taking place in the early 1960s and portrays an African-American family going from Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama for a summer vacation to visit the grandparents. While the story is told from the perspective of the middle child, it vividly shows many aspects of living in the segregated south. Historical film footage is interspersed to make this more realistic. It culminates with the bombing of the Baptist church where four little girls were killed. While the ending may be difficult, it should lead to important conversations among families or in classrooms. It is an accurate telling of events that took place during this period of time prior to enactment of the Civil Rights Law and part of American history.

The characters model a variety of behaviors from the firm but understanding parents to the older brother who consistently is getting into trouble to the nerdy younger brother who often gets bullied at school. In the course of the film, the older brother becomes more caring for his family and siblings and, of course, by the end the relationship all have become closer as a result of their experiences in Birmingham.

This film shows how families can accept each child for who they are even when the child may not be behaving well. I believe this film shows an understanding of the differences among children of different ages and points out how their life experiences can change their attitudes. The questioning and problem-solving re subtle. For example, when the children question the lack of service at a restaurant or a back entrance to the movie theater, it opens up the opportunity for parents to discuss with their children the restrictions that segregation put on people of color and lends itself to further inquiry. The film accurately shows the differences in the landscapes between the North and the South and the costumes, props, cars and locations were definitely appropriate for this period.

This is an excellent way to increase children's knowledge of the Civil Rights era and could easily be used at home or in a classroom to spur a discussion about that.

In the summer of 1963, Daniel and Wilona Watson and their three kids, 15-year-old Byron, 11-year-old Kenny and 8-year-old Joetta, leave their home in Flint, Michigan for a family road trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Daniel and Wilona are fed up with Byron's juvenile delinquent antics, and have decided what he needs is a dose of his Grandma Sands' no-nonsense approach. So the Watsons load up their 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber and head south, with plenty of laughs en route. When they make it to Birmingham, they soon discover that life is very different there than in Flint - and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron's troubles: events that will change their lives - and the nation - forever.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham is an original movie presented by Walmart and P&G for Walden Family Theater on Hallmark Channel.

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