Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why "Red Tails" matters

Editor's note: Willie Jefferson, who covers video games at the Houston Chronicle, attended a press screening of the George Lucas film, "Red Tails." Here are his thoughts.

George Lucas has a story to tell. 

He was so passionate about telling the story of the Tuskegee Airmen that he coughed up his own money - over $58 million - even after Hollywood studios didn't think a movie about black heroes couldn't fill seats. Lucas didn't let Hollywood's cold shoulder slow his efforts. He learned a small lesson that the Tuskegee Airmen learned over 60 years ago.

Overcoming is never an easy job.

I was invited to a press screening for his upcoming movie, "Red Tails." The film follows the rise of the all-black Army Air Corp 99th Fighter Squadron. Facing the specter of failure from the top Army brass and superior aircraft of the German Luftwaffe, the 99th exceeded expectations in the face of impossible odds.

I took my 8-year-old son with me to the screening. Instead of seeing a vampire or a warlock casting spells, I wanted him to see true heroes. Heroes. Not the likes of Lil Wayne, Jay Z and celebrities who are called 'heroes,' but men who fought and died for their country.

The real Tuskegee Airmen inspired me to become a fighter pilot in the military. I was very close to securing an appointment at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs but missed out due to my weight. However, their achievements motivated me to be the very best in whatever field I choose. They faced blatant racism, impossible odds and still achieved. As a minority in the field of journalism, I haven't seen much racism but realize I have achieved so much but still have many more goals to reach.

"Red Tails" is more than just a movie. It's more than a history lesson. It's a motivational story of soldiers who overcame fantastic odds to achieve success. It's about doing your very best even when your superiors secretly hope you'll fall flat on your face. It's about laying your life on the line, fighting for a country that took an astonishing 20 years - and federal intervention - after WWII to allow blacks and other minorities civil rights.

It is an awesome film that wasn't about sex, hip hop, bling, swag, baby mama drama, weed, pants on the ground, welfare and a food stamp president. No, this movie was about moving past hate, dealing with the venom of racism and dodging bullets from the Luftwaffe and racial slurs from fellow soldiers. The Tuskegee Airmen, both aviators and the ground crews, were pioneers who constantly had to prove themselves over and over and over again.

This story of bravery, courage and determination that never gets old. This is a story that children, teens, everyone can relate to and should see. I took my son to see it, to show him a glimpse of the struggle his grandparents and great grandparents faced. It's a story that can motivate our children and teens to excel despite what life throws at them.

This movie can and will motivate young people to be the best and brightest, regardless of skin color and economic position. The real airmen were farmers, sons of share croppers who went on to be decorated aviators. They became role models for all, especially this journalist who dreamed of being a fighter pilot. Though I didn't reach that goal, their story motivated me to be a role model and one of the few African American video game journalist in the United States.

My recommendation? Go and see it. Grab a friend or two. And make sure you take youngsters to see this movie. It will motivate you to read more on the history of 332d Fighter Group.

I'll have a full review on the movie on Friday.


Dan O. said...

The dogfights are fun but everything else is filled with corniness, lame acting, predictable story arc, and moments where the film feels like a video-game rather than based on a true story. A great story to be told, but told in a very poor way. Good review. Check out mine when you get the chance.

Mad Skillz said...

Thanks for your comment, Dan O. I play video games for a living and didn't feel like the movie was a video game. A comic book, yes. But as stated, I liked the throwback feel to it. It's a family friendly flick. I don't need it to be visceral. I don't need the "Saving Private Ryan" treatment. The rating alone tells people it won't be blood and guts. Plus - I saw the film and knew it was going to focus on action. This is a primer on the legendary airmen - highlights, their greatest hits - so you will do more research about them. I know their history but people that are looking for a history lesson need to grab a book. Thanks again for your comment!!!