Talking Race and Revival: The Woodlawn Premier
On Wed., Aug. 26, the historic Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend, Ind., held the premier of the movie Woodlawn, a film based on the true story of the Woodlawn High School football team that finds itself caught between severe racial tensions and the 1973 Jesus Movement. Bethel College helped promote the premier of the movie along with Empowered Living, Life Action Ministries, and various churches, businesses, and groups within the community. As a result of the partnership, 150 free tickets were offered to Bethel students who wanted to attend the premier. While it was a night of entertainment, the evening was about far more than the glitz and glam of the red carpet.
When the filmmakers decided to hold Woodlawn’s premier in South Bend, the event caught Bethel President Gregg Chenoweth’s attention. Chenoweth noted that the film addressed one of the campus’s five institutional goals, to foster spiritual revival across the region. Chenoweth then brought the film’s attention to Bethel senior and student body president A.J. Reynolds, saying that the film’s theme also fit in with one of Reynolds’s campaign pledges to bring more diversity to Student Council. While the film carries an explicitly Christian message, Reynolds believes it could reach a wider audience.
“What sets this movie apart is that it’s not just a Christian movie. It is history and the 1973 Jesus movement. It’s an interesting story, and then you have the cake of the thing being racism and Christianity fighting that.” According to Reynolds, part of the film’s power comes from its relevance. As he watched the opening scenes of the movie, Reynolds nearly forgot he was looking at a portrayal of the past.
“I thought I was seeing something from Ferguson, from Baltimore. I kept thinking, ‘Did we just jump in time? Or are we seeing this now?’ ”
Bethel Senior Joy Duncan first heard of Woodlawn’s premier through her roommates.
“Everyone was talking about going to a movie premier and dressing fancy,” says Duncan. “I was like, ‘What is going on?’ ”
Duncan had no initial interest in going, but her roommates managed to get her to the red carpet. She was glad they did.
“I thought the movie was well made. It has a really good message, or messages,” Duncan says. According to Duncan, the heart of those messages is revival and equality, “between all races in every shape and form.”
Reynolds agrees and hopes to spread the message of the film through his pledge to make Student Council a more diverse environment.
“I use that term very broadly,” says Reynolds, “I want diversity to mean more than race. I also want it to mean culture.” Reynolds continues, “Let’s get representation from athletes, spiritual people, and non-Christians on campus. That’s how you get true representation.”
Reynolds also believes the film’s message may be strong enough to launch a revival within America and the Christian church. When talking about the film’s relevance to modern society, Reynolds says, “We have a lot of problems. I think people could see the movie and think, ‘Maybe, just maybe Jesus could solve that.’ I think people are going to try it.”
Woodlawn will arrive in theaters on Oct. 16. For a closer look at what is happening within Student Council, check out their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/BethelStuCo?fref=ts