If you enjoyed the locality and familiar scenes of The Day After, this next Lawrence film is sure to scratch your movie itch. Jayhawkers is a much more recent release with a much older setting. This 2014 Kevin Willmott film takes place in the early to mid-1950s and focuses on the social destruction of racism surrounding the townspeople of Lawrence, Kansas who have seemingly forgot their free-stater history.
The narrative is told through the lens of college basketball and the young-adult years of the great Wilt Chamberlain. An aging Head Coach Phog Allen sets out to recruit “The Big Dipper” who will assuredly help return the already esteemed Kansas Jayhawks to a national title game. The story is dotted with racial issues from the start, as the production staff did well to make the audience feel uncomfortable and focus on the social tension as much or even more than the conflicts surrounding the Kansas Basketball team.
Even if you consider yourself a Jayhawk fanatic you’re likely to be on the edge of your seat, unsure of what is going to happen throughout the film; the movie’s historical accuracy is quite superb. I saw this movie in its entirety when it premiered, but it wasn’t until midway through watching it this past week that I noticed that it was a black and white film. It’s a really well done effect that seamlessly connects viewers to the civil rights issue-laden era of the 1950s.
For fans of Kansas, the city of Lawrence, basketball or social-justice narratives, Willmott’s Jayhawkers satisfies them all. If you’re interested in viewing this one isn’t quite as easy to track down but I’ve found it’s available to rent or purchase at select Lawrence locations.