Controversial Education Reform Movie Hits Silver Screens Friday
This Friday, school reform drama hits 2,500 theaters across the country:Â Wonâ€™t Back Down, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, presents parents and teachers united against the usual suspects to take over a failing school.
Producer Chip Flaherty hopes the film gets ordinary folks off their couches and into schools.
â€œA lot of people say this is an anti-union movie, and I disagree,â€ he said Tuesday. â€œI think itâ€™s anti-complacency, anti-status quo, and itâ€™s pro-parent. Right now, parents donâ€™t have a seat at the table. Theyâ€™re in a folding chair in a corridor outside the room. They canâ€™t even see the table. Parents really need a voice and a saber to rattle to make sure theyâ€™re listened to.â€
Unions Attack, Stars Defend
Flaherty may not think the movie is anti-union, but unions seem to feel attacked. The â€œparenttriggerâ€ hashtag is filled with constant venom, and movie screenings have been beset with protesters.
The film uses â€œthe most blatant stereotypes and caricatures I have ever seen,â€ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nationâ€™s second-largest union. She also said the film â€œis divisive and demoralizes millions of great teachersâ€ and accused the fictional film of perpetuating â€œfalsehoods.â€
When asked about the controversyÂ on the Today show, starring actress Viola Davis, who plays a teacher who becomes her studentsâ€™ hero, had two things to say.
â€œI welcome protests, I welcome discourseâ€¦It spearheads change,â€ Davis said. â€œWe saw that in the 60s. Thatâ€™s why we enjoy some of the privileges we do today. And you know what, in this movie the teacher, at the end of the day, is the hero. Itâ€™s the system thatâ€™s broken, and needs to be fixed.â€
â€˜Most Important Issue of Our Timeâ€™
Where decades of bureaucrat-driven reform have failed,Â Wonâ€™t Back Downâ€™s producers and crew hope to succeed in generating the individual will necessary to transform failing schools by giving more power to the people.
â€œWhat weâ€™re trying to do is get the folks on the couch who havenâ€™t really thought about educationâ€”even though itâ€™s the most important issue of our timeâ€”get them thinking about it,â€ Flaherty said.
The film tests the entertainment industryâ€™s ability to generate social action. Flaherty noted that his company, Walden Media LLC, started out with films of classic childrenâ€™s books, in hopes kids would be drawn to read the book after viewing the movie. Walden then began telling stories of â€œgreat lives well-lived.â€ ButÂ Wonâ€™t Back DownÂ is different, he said:
â€œFor once itâ€™s not William Wilberforce, who is a hero to the movement, but itâ€™s the common person… Thatâ€™s the best story because itâ€™s a celebration of free will and the importance of each individual, not only to their family, but in the community.â€
Wonâ€™t Back DownÂ opens nationwide September 28.
Read our movie review:Â â€œâ€˜Wonâ€™t Back Downâ€™ Celebrates Parent Activism.â€Â http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2012/09/13/movie-review-wont-back-down-celebrates-parent-activism