Hollywood director Jon Erwin is “absolutely stunned” by the reaction to his new film “Woodlawn,” saying that he’s seen hundreds of teenagers flock to the front of church sanctuaries to accept Jesus and commit themselves to spreading love in their schools and communities.
“Woodlawn,” a feature film about one of the last high schools to integrate in Birmingham, Alabama, back in the 1970s, brought in $4.1 million during its opening run this past weekend, coming in ninth place overall, according to numbers available on Monday morning.
Directed by Erwin and his brother Andy Erwin, it’s a movie that is based on a true story — one that carries with it a powerful message about faith, perseverance and reconciliation, Jon Erwin told The Church Boys podcast.
“Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama … was destined to close its doors because of violence from forced immigration, and nothing could really fix this problem of hatred and prejudice,” the filmmaker said, noting that a “spiritual awakening” among members of the school’s football team changed all that. “In one night the entire team gave their lives to Christ.”
Listen to Erwin describe how hundreds of teens became Christians after seeing “Woodlawn” at the 1:12:30 mark below, and be sure to listen to the entire episode of The Church Boys to catch Christian singer Matthew West, who guest-hosted:
That key scene is reenacted in “Woodlawn” by actor Sean Astin (“The Goonies” and “The Lord of the Rings”), who plays Hank, a preacher of sorts who rallies the students and calls them to reconcile with one another.
In an emotional scene, the players are seen accepting Christ and committing to love one another, despite intense divisiveness at the school.
It’s that message that Erwin, whose previous film “Moms’ Night Out” was a faith-based comedy, believes is resonating with young people, as he and his team have seen the massive impact firsthand when they screen the movie at churches.
“When teens see it … they want to do what’s in the film,” Erwin explained. “So, like at Prestonwood Baptist [Church] a week and a half ago … I’ve never seen the altar — the front of the church — not be big enough … for the amount of young people that stood and flooded the front.”
The filmmaker said that “hundreds and hundreds of kids” have been making a commitment for Jesus and to reconcile with one another and that he’s been seeing it happen everywhere that “Woodlawn” has been screened.
“Kids are standing up and making the decision together,” he said, describing one event during which 200 kids “made decisions for Christ.”
It’s a phenomenon that Erwin is hoping continues to spread, as more and more teenagers see the movie.
“Image that, if in the social climate that we live in in America, thousands of teens … made this decision [and say], ‘You know what? I’m going to model love and peace and unity in my school and in my life,'” Erwin said. “The way we treat each other needs to change.”
See the “Woodlawn” trailer below:
As TheBlaze previously reported, Erwin told The Church Boys in a separate interview earlier this year that making the movie while the chaos and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, unfolded and replayed on the news each night was, at moments, surreal.
“We were filming in October, November, all the way up to Christmas, and one of our actors is from Ferguson,” Erwin said, referencing protests broke out following former police officer Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown last August. “And it was crazy that everything that we were filming was actually playing out on television.”
The filmmaker said that he told the actor that he could go home to Ferguson and that production could simply be rescheduled, but the actor declined to take him up on the offer.
“He said, ‘No, this is why we’re making this movie. Because this is the answer to what’s going on in my hometown,’” Erwin recalled.
The filmmaker said that he believes that the true story behind “Woodlawn” is “proof that love can overcome hatred,” adding that he believes hatred must be “overcome by something stronger.”
According to Erwin, 44 of the team’s 48 players accepted Jesus Christ and became Bible-believers — and it all unfolded on the same night. That commitment fundamentally changed not only their lives, but also the negative dynamics at the school.
Listen to that earlier interview with Erwin below:
Find out more about “Woodlawn” here.
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