AOPA Pilot Magazine - July 2013 - 36
Red Tails reaching out
Traveling exhibit takes Tuskegee Airmen story to children
B Y J I L L W. TA L L M A N
AIRSHOWS ARE A GREAT WAY to showcase aviation to the nonflying public—so long as the
public comes to the airshows. When you have an important story to tell, however, sometimes you need to go directly to your audience.
That’s why the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Red Tail Squadron created the Rise
Above exhibit to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Rise Above is not simply a static
P–51—though that impressive airplane plays a starring role in an aviation setting. A key
part of the exhibit is a short-form film that puts its viewers in the back seat of that P–51.
The film is viewed in a 35-seat theater housed in a 53-foot trailer that is trucked directly
to schools and other venues.
THE STORY ON FILM
Adam White, director of documentaries Flight of the Red Tail, Red Tail Reborn, and
The Restorers, was in the director’s chair for this effort as well. “We try to remember
what normal people don’t know,” he said. “Ninety percent of African-Americans don’t
know about the Tuskegee Airmen. You have to hit them with the very clear facts: that
these airmen volunteered to save the world”—and then encountered prejudice when
they returned home to the United States. Two versions were shot; the longer version
for schools features a young student who learns that a new friend fought in a war as a
pilot, and that the man had to overcome obstacles to reach his goal. Tuskegee Airmen
Col. Charles E. McGee appears as himself, which White said added even more impact
to the story: “Here’s the guy who was asked to sit in the back of the bus.”
White filmed three P–51s from a variety of angles to give the film its
needed authentic feel. “You couldn’t shoot these on a green screen,” he said.
An aspect ratio of 7:1 allowed the filmmaker to use more parts of the screen
and do more to keep the viewpoint realistic. “This movie was made for one theater
only,” White said. “It will not be seen on DVD or iPad.” The theater employs a custom-built 163-degree panoramic screen designed by a company that specializes in
RISE ABOVE is a traveling
exhibit, which features a
35-seat movie theater inside
a 53-foot tractor trailer (left).
Images of the airmen (top)
are featured on the trailer;
documentaries are shown in
the theater (above center);
Red Tails movie star Cuba
Gooding Jr. (above).
36 | AOPA PILOT July 2013