"Red Tails" x The Tuskegee Airmen


Produced by: George Lucas, Rick McCallum and Charles Floyd Johnson
Directed by: Anthony Hemingway
Written by: John Ridley and Aaron McGruder
Original Music by: Terence Blanchard
Featuring: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Nate Parker, Tristan Wilds, Method Man and Ne-Yo
Length: 125 minutes
Date of Release: January 20, 2012 (2012-01-20) (Theatrical).  May 22, 2012 (Available on DVD)

During World War II, Black (read: African-American) pilots and service men, were caught between a rock and a hard place, as they faced challenges at home -in America- and abroad. Most of their stories have either gone unheard of or swept under a rug, due to their race/ethnicity, but earlier this year, acclaimed filmmaker George Lucas helped to shed light on the victory of a small group of those men, the Tuskegee Airmen (to be exact).

Lucas' production company (LucasFilms, Ltd.), fully-funded the project, titled Red Tails, and has openly expressed the opposition he faced in trying to get Hollywood's support of the film, during its pre-release. On Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, Lucas admitted that most studios/execs felt they wouldn't make a profit from the release/distribution, because of the film's all-Black cast. 

Inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen, but based on a fictional plot, the cast is led by Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. (who've both portrayed Tuskegee Airmen in previous films). Howard and Gooding play the roles of squadrant leaders, guiding a group of young, Black men through combat in Germany-occupied Italy, during WW II, yet some film critics differ on whether the fictionalized inaccuracy hurts the film. Rotten Tomatoes, says the film "suffers from one-dimensional characters [and] corny dialogue...," while the Los Angeles Times said, it "squanders a great subject, reducing the real-life struggles and fierce heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen to rickety cliché."

However, in defesne of the film, screenwriter Aaron McGruder (a co-writer for the project, who onced criticized Lucas and is famous for his political cartoon, The Boondocks), said, "Some people are going to like this tonal choice and some people are going to say, 'Oh it should've been heavier and it should've been more dramatic.' But there's a version of this that doesn't have to be Saving Private Ryan." Exploring this topic further, Roger Ebert says, "It makes the point that the airmen were skilled and courageous, and played a historic role in the eventual integration of our armed services," but it, "could have done more..."

In addition to the film's efforts, the Commemorative Air Force's Red Tail Project has traveled the country, raising money to build an exhibit that Founder Don Hinz says, would "carry the lessons and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen into every classroom." The CAF project seeks to spread the values and history of the airmen, and has used Lucas' film to capture more success. In a letter written to CAF supporters, Kenneth O. Wofford, Jr. (son of Tuskegee Airman, Col. Wofford Sr.), said, "there was a time when the Tuskegee Airmen were not celebrated as heroes," but that, "the values... are as relevant today as they were in World War II." Wofford highlighted the airmen's -and his father's- fight against Nazi Germany and their fight against segregation at home, a struggle that was dubbed a 'Double Victory' because they helped defeat the enemy at war and were able to see the end of racial turmoil, on U.S. soil.

Moreover, in preparation for the film's DVD release (on May 22nd, 2012), Lucas has included a special feature in the package, titled Double Victory, which documents historical evidence of the Tuskegee Airmen's challenges and triumphs, as well as some of their personal, survivor stories; stories that have inspired people such as 15-year-old Kimberly Anyadike, who set a record for being the youngest, Black female to fly coast-to-coast (from Compton, California to Newport News, Virginia), after learning about the airmen. Anyadike, Wofford says, "is an example of what kids can achieve when inspired." Therefore, the hope is that Lucas' film will continue to reach audiences and motivate them, while keeping them entertained.

To date, the film has grossed over $49 Million, and cost $58 Million to produce; it was nominated for a 2012 Saturn Award (for Best Action/Adventure Film).

www.google.com, en.wikipedia.org, www.imdb.com, nydailynews.com, rogerebert.suntimes.com, www.latimes.com, Rise Above (a Commemorative Air Force book, 2011), www.commemorativeairforce.org, www.redtails2012.com

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