If you don’t know about Red Tails yet, it’s a movie about a crew of African American pilots trained in the Tuskegee program during WWII. While they spent most of the war (literally) grounded by the unjust laws of military segregation, eventually they were called upon to fly dangerous missions, ultimately proving their worth as some of America’s most dedicated and skilled fighter pilots.

Sounds like you average feel-good historical drama dealing with America’s complicated history with race, but here’s the twist: Red Tails is, in part, a product of Lucasfilm, with its story conceived by none other than the Star Wars creator George Lucas, who also serves as the film’s executive producer.

George Lucas and black history? Yep, it’s happening.

Today we have seven minutes of Red Tails footage to share, along with an interview with Lucas himself, discussing how this project may just change the state of African American cinema (for better or worse). Yep, you heard right: if this movie turns out to be a financial success, black cinema may indeed get a boost (in terms of budget at least) thanks to…George Lucas. And who says that life has no surprises left to offer?

Check out the 7-minutes of footage from Red Tails below, which boasts some hi-end effects work from Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic team to create action-packed WWII aerial dogfight sequences. You’ll get a glimpse at a notable lineup of actors (both black and white), including Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds (The Wire), Wu-Tang rapper Method Man, Lee Tergesen (Oz), Michael B. Jordan (The Wire), R&B singer Ne-Yo, Josh Dallas (Thor) – among others:

Now, check out a snippet of what George Lucas had to say to USA Today about Red Tails, and how the assumed risk of making a $60 million film that is considered “black cinema” may become a thing of the past and offer new opportunities to other minority filmmakers – if the movie actually makes a sizable profit in theaters. If the movie doesn’t perform strongly…well, Lucas has a few fears about that scenario as well. Hear his thoughts on race and cinema below:

Will George Lucas break the door for black cinema wide open? Or will his bold endeavor flounder and re-affirm some of the stereotypes that obviously still permeate the landscape of Hollywood (and by extension, the larger moviegoing public)?

We don’t have a crystal ball handy in order to predict this imminent future, but it’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out once the box office numbers for Red Tails have all been tallied. ‘George Lucas: savior of black cinema…’ Trust me, it doesn’t sound any less strange once you’ve said it over and over a few times…

Red Tails will be in theaters on January 20, 2012. It will be opening against Underworld 4 and Steven Soderbergh’s spy thriller Haywire, so competition is going to be stiff, to say the least.

Sources: FOX &  USA Today