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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Fighting for justice for a family member takes perseverance, teamwork, courage, especially to stand up against unfair status quo. Understanding and fighting for racial and criminal justice demands having compassion, empathy for others. While data might show that places like Georgia, Texas, other Southern states are quickly becoming politically "blue," movie offers a warning of what can happen if a minority-controlled government can keep an unsustainable status quo in place to centralize power. This should give politically minded viewers ample drive to fight for local, state, and national governments that reflect everyone, not just those used to power.
Positive Role Models
The Johnson family fights tirelessly for justice for Kendrick. They have inspired compassion and empathy in others to fight with them; collective teamwork of family and supporters has inspired a nation. They draw from courage and perseverance to not give into a racially unjust minority rule.
Johnsons and concerned Black citizens of Valdosta showcase the humanity of Black Americans, especially in face of unjust, racist local government. Dives into how Kendrick Johnson's case reflects a larger U.S. history of Black pain, trauma, murder at the hands of White Americans and White American government. Disturbing imagery of lynchings and disfigured bodies inspire grief but also compassion, understanding, empathy, a desire to change a broken system. Highlights how a majority-minority city like Valdosta, with Black population over 50%, can still be marginalized by a minority-controlled government.
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Violence & Scariness
Many images of dead and disfigured Black bodies, including pictures of lynched Black people, repeated images of Kendrick Johnson's corpse (including in school gym with blood and vomit on his body, images of face and body parts during two autopsies). Description of death of 1918-era Valdosta resident Mary Turner, victim of a heinous lynching, including mention of the gruesome murder of her unborn baby. A marker honoring her life in Valdosta is shown damaged by bullets in a hate crime. Description of Emmett Till's murder, images of his body. Blood spatter and bloody clothes from scene of Johnson's suspected murder. While these images are shown in their entirety to make a point about the humanity of Black people and the stark reality of Black trauma in America, they are deeply upsetting and unsettling.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Finding Kendrick Johnson is a documentary about the conspiracy surrounding the violent 2013 death of Georgia teen Kendrick Johnson. The film has many uncensored, deeply upsetting images of corpses, including Johnson's, as well as other scenes of Black pain and death -- including lynching images, a lynching victim's memorial plaque riddled with bullets, the murder of an unborn baby, and more. Hate crimes are highlighted, as is the disturbing evidence found at the scene of Johnson's death (blood, vomit, etc.). It can be difficult to watch, but the film demonstrates that fighting for justice takes perseverance, teamwork, and courage and that understanding and fighting for racial and criminal justice demands having compassion and empathy for others. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary will leave you filled with righteous anger for the Johnson family and all Black families who've dealt with racist violence. Directed by Jason Pollock, Finding Kendrick Johnson is a hard but necessary watch for anyone who's hoping to learn more about the United States' history of racist violence. Narrated poignantly by Lewis, the film clearly presents the evidence related to Johnson's unsolved death -- with much of it revealing a racist conspiracy meant on keeping White suspects safe because their father is an FBI agent. The cover-up also reflects the United States' history of disregarding Black lives, a history that only started being dismantled at an accelerated rate after the 2020 deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others.
The film unflinchingly discusses Johnson's death, including showing images of his corpse as it was found and throughout his two autopsies. And it takes the same unflinching approach to covering the United States' racist past (and present), including showing uncensored images of lynched Black bodies, Emmett Till's open casket, and more. The film might leave viewers disturbed, but it's for a reason: Pollock wants viewers to feel the same weight of pain and pressure that the Johnsons and other Black families feel daily. While the film has a lot for viewers to process, it successfully shows that Black people have had to process this level of inhumanity for centuries. It asks viewers to bear witness to that pain during its nearly two-hour run time. And ultimately it's asking viewers to do much more after processing these horrible truths: It asks them to join the call for justice for the Johnsons and for all Black people suffering under the weight of racial injustice and violence.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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