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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brother Future is an original, thought-provoking story about slavery that is enhanced by the evocative music, authentic setting, and solid acting . 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.
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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 at the start of BROTHER FUTURE. 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: March 31, 1991
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 1998
- Cast: Carl Lumbly, Moses Gunn, Phil Lewis
- Director: Roy Campanella II
- Studio: Wonder Works
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Integrity
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: November 27, 2020
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