The Woodlawn High School football team, led by defensive co-ordinator Jerry Stearsn (Kevin Sizemore), top left, and head coach Tandy Geralds (Nic Bishop), pause to pray before an important game. Photo courtesy of Grace Hill Media

Woodlawn is victorious in faith

By  Alister Vaz, Youth Speak News
  • October 16, 2015

Woodlawn is a film full of unexpected surprises, the biggest being lead actor Caleb Castille. Castille was originally signed on as a stunt double for the lead actor, but when the actor came up against visa issues just three days before filming, Castille was asked to step into the lead role.

Having no professional acting experience, Castille does a remarkable job. He delivers with passion and looks like an experienced professional with his performance.

When asked about the message he wanted the film to convey to youth, he replied, “Take it upon yourself to change like the kids in the movie. Be bold, do not be afraid because of your age.”

The film is certain to leave viewers, especially youth, with the lasting impression that if they are able to step out of their comfort zone and be proud of their faith, they have the potential to change their community. It serves as an invitation to all to be the change that this world so desperately needs.

Based on a real life story, the film takes place in Woodlawn High School in 1970s Birmingham, Ala. After the school’s desegregation in 1973, the Woodlawn Colonels football team, with its first African- American player, brings racism, division and violence into the city.

Castille plays that African- American player, Tony Nathan. Sean Astin, best known for his role as Sam Wise in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, plays Hank, a humble, charismatic man who delivers an inspiring and compelling message to the players, as well as the audience.

In a community where racism brings division and violence, unity comes through the initiative of the Woodlawn football team. Players show no fear and go against the norm, bringing change to their community because of their love for God and each other.

By the end of the film, the players win, but their trophy is in the form of a united community. Unlike most football movies, the players understood there is something more important than winning the championship; a victory in faith. The focus is not on the team winning, but how the players’ decision to choose Jesus influences the full community.

When compared to other Christian movies, the happy ending doesn’t come about with only prayer, but through the humility of the football players and their courage to put their belief into action.

Andy Erwin directed the film with his brother, Jon, and said it is “the most expensive Christian movie since The Passion of the Christ.” He said a lot of money was invested in the film with the hope that it may be an effective means of spreading Woodlawn’s message to as many people as possible.

In addition to the high cost, it is interesting to note the movie was produced in less than a year. Although the movie was in the minds of the directors for a long time, recent events of racism in the United States led the production team to believe the message would be more relevant if the movie was released now rather than later. Even though the film was quickly produced, the special effects and filming is flawless.

(Vaz, 16, is a Grade 11 student at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.)

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