What’s Worth Watching: White Water’s Child’s-Eye View of Racism

White Water
Jenni Girtman/TV One
White Water

White Water (Saturday, Feb. 7, 8/7c, TV One)

The adage that you always want most what you can’t have takes on historical resonance in this family-friendly TV movie timed for Black History Month. Set in the segregated South of the early 1960s, White Water is a largely whimsical memory piece seen through the 7-year-old eyes of mischievous chronic dreamer Michael (Amil and Amari O’Neal). He becomes fixated on the idea that the water that pours out of “Whites Only” spigots in his sleepy but racially divided town’s communal fountains must be colder, tastier and altogether better than what issues from the rusty ones labeled “Colored.”

Michael’s obsessive desire to drink from these forbidden founts is just one of many summer schemes that prompts his exasperated single mom Annie (Sharon Leal, bringing an authentic edge of weary desperation to the proceedings) to send the boy out to gather switches for what seems like nightly whippings, played out before a portrait of a black Jesus who looks on with wry pity. Things get more serious when one of Michael’s reckless excursions leads to a scary wilderness of adult juke joints and fiery Ku Klux Klan rallies. The harsh realities of racism lead Michael to a climactic awakening likely to surprise no one — though as an object lesson for younger viewers, you could do worse.

Schrab’s other directing credits include The Mindy Project, Workaholics, The Sarah Silverman Program, Children’s Hospital and more. He’s also attached to direct The Lego Movie sequel.

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