Parents' Guide to

Occupied City

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Powerful, long docu examines Nazis' impact on Amsterdam.

Movie PG-13 2023 262 minutes
Occupied City Movie Poster: Children sled down a hill in Amsterdam

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McQueen's methodical chronicle of the horrors Amsterdam faced in the 1940s has a deep, unforgettable impact. It's important, and it's more relevant than ever, but at four-plus hours, it's more of an academic endeavor than a piece of filmed edutainment. Scholars, academics, and movie critics are the rare groups who are likely to watch Occupied City from start to finish. The film will probably screen at various war, Jewish, and Holocaust museums throughout the world, offering a reminder and a warning of how reprehensibly horrific hate can become if unfettered, and how leadership matters. And even if those museum visitors only stand and listen for 10 minutes, the message will be received.

Watching for the entire 240+ minutes delivers the weight of the horror -- but it may also numb the viewer. Because of the way the visuals are paired with the recounting of information about the people who were abused and murdered at the hands of the German and Dutch Nazi Party leaders, it can be difficult to fully absorb the information. Your eyes are visually taking in a scene that's unrelated to the heinous stories being told, and your mind may have trouble deciding what to focus on. It's powerful performance art that's beautiful and well-made by a true artistic genius. And, like most performance art, it succeeds in the buzz it creates, the talk and chatter that surround the art, rather than in everyone seeing it for themselves first-hand. It shows that life does move on after tragedy, but it's also a clear warning that the freedoms many people are lucky to have today -- self-expression, protest, religion -- can disappear very quickly if hate isn't stopped in its tracks.

Movie Details

  • In theaters: December 25, 2023
  • Cast: Melanie Hyams
  • Director: Steve McQueen
  • Inclusion Information: Black directors, Female actors, Female writers
  • Studio: A24
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Topics: History
  • Run time: 262 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: thematic material, strong language and sexual material, smoking and brief drug use
  • Last updated: December 23, 2023

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