On Friday, January 13, the White House held a special screening of Red Tails, a new film produced by George Lucas and based on the story of the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II.
Several original Tuskegee Airmen were invited to the screening, including William Fauntroy, who was featured in AMS Pictures’ documentary, A Defining Moment. After his trip to the White House, Fauntroy recounted his experience to AMS Pictures Producer/Director Monika Watkins.
Just like at the inauguration we met at the Bolling Field AFB. Dabney (Montgomery) was there from A Defining Moment and Flying for Freedom. He walked in and I spoke to him, ‘Hey, I know you!’ We all got on a bus and went over to the White House where we were greeted with inspections. Each of us had to show our identification and then they let us in. For me and some others they had wheel chairs. There was a very nice buffet of hors d’ oeuvres. After that they assembled us in a reception area.
Also in attendance at the screening were Red Tails Producer George Lucas, Director Anthony Hemingway and several of the films’ cast members. Fauntroy and his fellow DOTAs (Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen) had a chance to visit with the cast and crew before the screening.
The stars of the movie were there and George Lucas. I had a chance to talk to Cuba Gooding for a long time and Elijah Kelly. I kid Elijah that he was playing my part because he’s a little guy. I wanted to thank George Lucas. What he’s doing is letting people know more about the Tuskegee Airmen than I’ve ever seen. The advertisements on television and every ten minutes someone’s mentioning the Tuskegee Airmen…he started the ball that’s rolling. AMS has done the same thing except they didn’t have the promotion that this movie is having. It’s causing people to ask questions. I saw kids last night that had no idea who the Tuskegee Airmen were until they heard about this movie. I’m so sorry I didn’t take the time myself to thank him (George Lucas) for what he’s doing. It’s one of those things that you don’t often get in your lifetime. People recognize that things have been done because of you. It makes me feel good that I was a part of something like this (Tuskegee Airmen legacy).
Prior to the screening, President Obama and First Lady Michelle arrived in the reception area to greet the Tuskegee Airmen and their guests.
They came to each of us. As he (President Obama) shook our hands he gave each of us a coin with the presidential seal. Then she (Mrs. Obama) came through and hugged each one of us. There were about twenty of us DOTAs there. She didn’t have to hug anybody and she hugged each one of us. I’ve been hugged by Mrs. Obama – that was a thrill. Up until that time my big thrill was working with you guys, but Mrs. Obama hugging me – I’m sorry, you’ll have to take second place.
After meeting with the President and First Lady, the Airmen and Red Tails cast and crew were seated in the White House Theater, where the Tuskegee Airmen had a surprise for Mrs. Obama, whose birthday is January 17.
They have a theater that seats about forty people. They had popcorn for us. It was the best popcorn I’d ever had. The President spoke to us in the theater. Just before he began talking, the president of our chapter said to me, ‘would you sing happy birthday?’ I stood up and said, ‘Mr. President, there’s some unfinished business we need to take care of first. Happy Birthday to you…’ Everybody joined in and she showed real emotion. That was a wonderful experience.
The screening began immediately following the President’s speech. Fauntroy has now seen Red Tails a couple of times, but the excitement of having the Tuskegee Airmen story brought to the masses has yet to wear off.
I think the movie’s great! My son has seen it twice and he enjoys it each time he sees it. It’s exciting. The fight scenes and stuff. Unless, and I really mean this, unless they (the audience) have seen your series they don’t get the information of what the Tuskegee Airmen are about. Your series is the closest thing to telling people what the Tuskegee Airmen did and what they went through. The history books don’t include us on what is history.
Red Tails is currently showing in theaters across the nation. For more information on the movie, visit the official Red Tails website.