Hallmark Channel Presents: The Watsons Go To Birmingham

The Georgia Pacific Centre played host to a private viewing of the Hallmark Channel's newest film adaptation of children's book "The Watsons Go To Birmingham"The film was produced by Tonya Lewis Lee and directed by Kenny Leon. 
"The Watsons Go To Birmingham" tells the story of a black family in the early 1960's from Flint Michigan who take their three children to Birmingham for the summer to reconnect with their extended family and get in touch with their southern roots. Having been sheltered from the evils of racial segregation in Flint, the Watsons thrust their children into an integral part of history. 

Byron is 15 years-old and hard-headed, Kenny is an 11 year-old sensitive bookworm and pushover and the angelic eight year-old Joetta are the three Watson kids. Each has a lesson to learn and one to teach the other as this wholesome films takes shape. Parents Daniel (Wood Harris) and Wilona Watson (Anika Noni Rose) help navigate these three along with a southern-rooted grandma who encourages them to allow their children to find their way while they're young and fearless. 

"The Watsons Go To Birmingham" is appropriately timed following the box office hit "The Butler" in chronicling black history in America. However, airing on the Hallmark Channel, it offers the family a less violent and aggressive approach to what African Americans endured during a tumultuous era in black history. 

The film makes light of the southern dialect and when grandma Sands warns the children about the whirlpool but it comes off as the 'woo-poo' and takes on a whole new meaning! This film is a great family movie and one for the collection. "The Watsons Go To Birmingham" is a travel down memory lane for many and a history lesson for others. From the dated brown-bomber model car, the 45 record player in the dash, the music, wardrobe and tight-knit familial bond displayed in this film makes one ache for the days of old just a little bit. 

During the talk-back session after the viewing, Valerie Jackson (radio host and widow of former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson) moderated the question and answer session with Tonya Lewis Lee and Kenny Leon. 

"I wanted this movie to be about the family." said Tonya Lewis Lee
"Because of our sponsors, we had to be really creative with how we shot certain scenes and told this story. We had to move away from the gory and in-your-face hatred that many experienced in the south. " 

"I took the two small children aside and spoke to them about the scenes and explained to them what was happening and why...I've worked with children all of my professional life, so this wasn't hard for me to do. They were like sponges! They soaked up everything and delivered." said Kenny Leon

The evening's viewing was sponsored by Reuben and Alice Cannon, Georgia Pacific, BronzeLens Film Festival and Kheesecakes by Kelli. 

"The Watsons Go to Birmingham" premieres Friday, Sept. 20 at 8pm on the Hallmark Channel.