I had the privilege of not only previewing the inspirational movie, Won’t Back Down but also having an opportunity to meet with the cast in an intimate round table setting. The movie, in a word, was phenomenal. It was emotional, spoke to me on so many different levels; as a parent and former elementary school educator as well as a community member. By the end of the movie, as I was mopping up my mascara, my wheels were already turning to find a way that I would be better, a way for me to incite change.
Won’t Back Down is a movie about an ordinary mom that sets out to accomplish the extraordinary. Jamie, (Maggie Gyllenhaal) cannot accept that her daughter is attending a failing school. She sets out to turn the school around with the help of one educator Nona, (Viola Davis). The two determined mothers ban together to get the school’s community, comprised of both parents and teachers, to rise up and give the children the one thing that can change the lives of everyone involved: HOPE.
After a lovely lunch at the Ritz Carlton, I joined a few bloggers to interview the cast of Won’t Back Down and speak with David Barnz about the movie that is already generating Oscar Buzz.
Photo from L-R: Sarah from OneSavvyMom.net; Michelle from MomTrends.com; Monica from MacaroniKid.com; Rosie Perez; Viola Davis; Maggie Gyllenhaal; Laine from TheCultureMom.com; Oscar Isaac;
Eileen from LatinaOnAMission.com; Director, Daniel Barnz
Mothers are natural advocates for their child, any number of backgrounds may have worked for the movie, I was able to ask David Barnz why he choose education as the “background” of the movie.
First of all, I just love the David and Goliath genre as a film maker. I have always wanted to make a movie that was in that vein.
And then, the other part of it is that I am the son of two teachers, and my grandmother was a public school teacher, my sister-in-law, mother-in-law are public school teachers. So, education has always been a part of my family. And a blend of those two things sort of came tighter in Won’t Back Down.
To touch on what you were saying about reactions to the movie, I think some of the greatest complements that I’ve received on this film have been from people like you who say, I was a teacher for 20 years, this movie made me want to go back into the classroom or, people saying that this movie makes me want to go back to school to become a teacher. I just think that’s an incredible complement to the film.
I also learned that each of the cast members took time to not only visit actual public schools that were failing, but also drew from their own backgrounds to add a palpable authenticity to the movie. Viola Davis shared how she grew up in abject poverty and with the compassion and acknowledgement of one special teacher, was encouraged to beat the odds of both a failing school and neighborhood. She shared how real the circumstances that are portrayed in the movie are to her and that many of her family members are affected by failing educational institutions, and red-tape bureaucracy.
When we discussed how this movie affected us all as parents Maggie Gyllenhaal responded by saying:
I think what happens when you become a mom or a parent is, without even meaning to, the whole spectrum of emotions that you have, investments, feelings about the world just widen so much. And now I have a second child, and it happened again even more, even greater.
All of those feelings are just in me. So, yes, all those kind of feelings informed how I played Jamie and who she was. Those are things that you don’t know before you’re a mom. For example, you could reach into your pocket in a business meeting, and find a bag of Cheerios, you know? All of the things that just happen that you can’t really explain to someone.
Look, I played mom before I was a mom. I think I did okay. But, it’s like different now.
I watched Waiting for Superman again last night. And during the lottery scene, my husband and I were both hysterical — hiccuping crying. I don’t know if you’ve seen that movie but, you’re watching these children who you’ve come to know and come to care about, most of them not getting the opportunity to go to the school they want to go to. It is heart breaking. I don’t know if I would feel that way if I weren’t a mother.
And at the same time, there are other things even beyond being a mother that like drew me into the movie. When I read it, I thought, I have to do this movie, we can’t live in a democracy and not have an educated electorate. What tools are we going use to choose our leaders if we don’t educate the people in this country?
And then, once I was playing someone, as I said before, who wasn’t an intellectual, wasn’t concerned about statistics really profoundly I think almost scorned at politics, and just did all of this from the most emotional place, just from her heart, ended up finding herself trying to change policy, and becoming an activist.
I didn’t do that much research about the ins and outs of the educational system in our country until after wrapping the film. The movie got me interested in it, and the making of the movie got me interested in it. And now the controversy that the movie has stirred up, which was really surprising to me, got me even more interested. Now I’m on fire.
Although the movie was not meant to be a movie about education or unions, it is hard not to consider and reflect upon what I feel is the foundation of any society. It is a subject near and dear to me both as an educator and now as a mother. We have all gone through the educational system, for better or worse. I know I was shaped by three very special teachers, and even years later I acknowledge the influence they had over me. Perhaps this movie will inspire, encourage and spark in us a fire to reach out, join hands and put up a fight that will help us to “be the change that you want to see in the world.” (Ghandi)
WON’T BACK DOWN Opens Today (September 28th)
The film is inspired by the work of dedicated parents, teachers and advocates across the country.
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL (Oscar® nominated actress) is Jamie Fitzpatrick
VIOLA DAVIS (Oscar® nominated & Tony Award winning actress) is Nona Alberts
HOLLY HUNTER (Oscar® winning actress) is Evelyn Riske
OSCAR ISAAC is Michael Perry
ROSIE PEREZ (Oscar® nominated actress) is Breena
MARIANNE’JEAN BAPTISTE (Oscar® nominated actress) is Olivia Lopez
VING RHAMES (Golden Globe winning actor) is Principal Thompson
LANCE REDDICK is Charles Albert
BILL NUNN is Principal Holland
EMILY ALYN LIND is Malia Fitzpatrick
DANTE BROWN is Cody Alberts
Michelle is a SAHM and self-described ‘green’ fashionista. She is a NYC woman, turned burbs mama, raising her 2 B’s in an eco conscious manner. She blogs about natural parenting and green living at www.everythingsabuzz.com. Find her on twitter @queentob. Have a fashion question? Look for the new Syncing Your Style section on the Momtrends facebook page or tweet us your fashion questions at @momtrends!
Momtrends was not compensated for this post. We did preview Won’t Back Down and enjoyed a complimentary lunch.