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Parents' Guide to


By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Terrible suffering, violent vintage photos in potent docu.

Movie NR 2019 80 minutes
Emanuel Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

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Is It Any Good?

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Heartrending and hard to watch, this movie solemnly pays respect to good people who met a terrible ending -- and to the loved ones left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Fittingly, though we see Roof in news footage and photos and videos he took himself, dead-eyed and unsmiling during target practice or draped with Confederate images, the film's focus is mostly on the victims and their families. In long segments, survivors like Nadine Collier (who lost her mother, Ethel W. Lance) and Reverend Anthony Thompson (whose wife, Myra, was killed in the shooting) unblinkingly share what they experienced on the night of the shooting -- and what it's been like to live with the absence of their loved ones ever since.

The details revealed are gutting: Thompson says how much he regrets that he was in the bathroom when Myra left for church that night; he never got to say a final goodbye or kiss her one last time. Felicia Sanders, the mother of victim Tywanza Sanders, says that her son clutched the hair of his Aunt Susie (Jackson, yet another victim) as he died. It's almost a relief when the filmmakers turn away from these grim memories to investigate the roots of Charleston's racial divide, American history during the slave trade era, and the pivotal role of the Christian church in Southern Black communities. Of course, this context only points up how very profane and awful Roof's act was: a shot right in the heart for a community that had already suffered so much. Emanuel helps viewers feel their pain to a small degree -- and points out why those lost should never be forgotten.

Movie Details

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