I attended a pre-release showing of Woodlawn last night. I liked it, even though I wasn’t expecting to — I have been disappointed over and over by the mediocre attempts of evangelical filmmakers. But this felt different. What I call “the cheese factor” was missing. That’s the term I use to describe amateurish, poorly written and acted efforts at making the gospel relevant through cinema. Cheesy Christian films, perhaps unintentionally, rely on the patience and charity of church-goers whose love of the message makes them willing to accept mediocrity and suspend disbelief. The same films tend to be soundly mocked by viewers from outside the evangelical camp.
I think Woodlawn succeeds where many have failed because it is based on a true story. When evangelicals attempt to make up a story — cinematic fiction — the “cheese factor” seems unavoidable, but this film, like The Hiding Place (1975), is based on a true story. Woodlawn is drawn from the book by the same title which, according to the Amazon summary, is about “courage, strength, and football at the height of racial tension in Birmingham, Alabama…and tells the story of Coach Tandy Gerelds, his running back Tony Nathan, and a high school football game that healed a city.” Continue reading Movie: Woodlawn. I Was Impressed.