Brother Future

  • Review Date: April 26, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1991
  • Running Time: 116 minutes

Common Sense Media says

A moving story of slavery and freedom.
  • Review Date: April 26, 2005
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1991
  • Running Time: 116 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

This video is about the reality of slavery, and the main character, TJ, learns to value his life in modern America.

Violence & scariness

Graphic slave whippings.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the evocative music, authentic setting, and solid acting enhance this original, thought-provoking story about slavery. Part of the impressive WonderWorks series, Brother Future brings the harsh truths of slavery to life. The teenager T.J. learns to appreciate his freedom. In spite of the "No sex-drugs-violence" emblem on the WonderWorks packaging, this drama includes two slave whippings, along with brief glimpses of blood. But these scenes are integral to the story and handled with sensitivity. Families should be prepared to deal with children's feelings about seeing such violence. This film is too sophisticated for all but the oldest grade-school kids, but it's likely to strike a chord with older kids and preteens. This is thoughtful material for adults and youngsters to share.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

Mysteriously plucked from his budding career as a rip-off artist in modern Detroit, T.J. wakes up in the hands of South Carolina patrollers in 1822. Put up on the auction block in his Nikes, he quickly comes face to face with life in the cotton fields. As he makes friends among the slaves on Master Cooper's plantation, T.J. struggles to subdue his insolence, and learns how few rights he has. A clairvoyant house servant tells T.J. he will eventually return to his own time, but only if he can truly offer help to another. Drawn into a secret slave revolt, the growing love between his friends Josiah and Caroline, and Josiah's desperation to read and write, T.J. learns that the freedom and education he has ignored in Detroit were won by the heartache and sacrifice of his forebears.

Is it any good?


Few youngsters will be able to resist the trick of time that whisks the hip, feckless T.J. out of the present and into slavery. They'll readily identify with him when the movie capitalizes on the time switch: T.J. briefly parodies Robin Leach with an ironic "Lifestyles of the Rich and Racist" bit, and he helps his friend Josiah woo another slave, Caroline, by writing an impromptu rap.

But kids will also embrace the deeper story here as T.J.'s hip-hop style fails him. BROTHER FUTURE proves its worth in the touching relationships T.J. establishes with his fellow slaves. Held in cruel captivity, his memories of modern-day independence grow all the more precious. "Slavery is a psyche, a mind-game," he tells Josiah. "They want you to think you're not as good as them so they can work you to death." In the end, T.J. rises to the challenge, overcoming his self-interest to help Josiah and Caroline escape. Throughout the film the hardships of slavery are conveyed in a way young viewers and their families can easily absorb.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the violence and ruthlessness of slavery depicted in this film. How is it the same as or different from the world of today? What would you have done if you had been born into such a system?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 1, 1991
DVD release date:January 27, 1998
Cast:Carl Lumbly, Moses Gunn, Phil Lewis
Director:Roy Campanella II
Studio:Wonder Works
Run time:116 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Brother Future was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bypicky consumer August 11, 2009

Not Believable Tale of a Cult Leader

We thought this would be a decent movie. It's not even worth the $1 we paid at the library to buy it. It was still sealed, and we wondered why someone would donate a brand new DVD. Denmark Vesey is portrayed as a Christian hero who wanted to help his fellow slave by planning a rebellion. He quoted the Bible to rally slaves to fight for his cause and their freedom. Though the movie doesn't spell it out, the rebellion would involve murder. The PBS site says that he enlisted an African man who practiced rituals and traditions bordering on occultism. How's that for family movie fare? VIOLENCE: There are two brutal beatings where slaves are whipped. Blood is not shown, but there are shots of the backs of the slaves. ALCOHOL: A slavemaster drinks from his jug in several scenes and is drunk. Alcohol is shown being served at a formal party. MESSAGE/ROLE MODELS: Covered this in the opening paragraphs.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byNunya April 19, 2009
I remember watching this movie in elementary school, and it impacted me in a huge way. I still think about it now that I'm in college. It made me cry when I watched it in school, and/but I've yet to gain the courage to watch it again.
Parent of a 13, 15, and 16 year old Written byTeacher101 September 26, 2009

Perfect movie for children 9+

Wow this movie is amazing. At first i thought i wouldn't like it but at the end it had a really good message about self discovery. I had my daughter (9), niece (10), and nephew(11) watch it, and they were all captivated in it. They were upset when i just had to pause the movie for a few minute.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages


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