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Out of Omaha

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Out of Omaha Movie Poster Image
Excellent coming-of-age docu; cursing, drinking, smoking.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 92 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Perseverance, learning from past mistakes, the hard work required to pursue one's dreams. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Adults active in the community work to improve the situations of those growing up in poverty and institutional racism. Adult mentors who overcame similar situations check on teens.

Violence

News footage of homicides, of a home invasion, and alleged sexual assault. News footage of riots in Omaha in the mid-1960s. Talk of the suicide of a family member. 

Sex
Language

Frequent profanity, including "f--k," "motherf---er," and the "N" word. Racial slurs printed on an old business card for a realty company that clearly states that the company won't work with African Americans or Asian Americans. "S--t," "pissed," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beer and malt liquor drinking. Marijuana smoking. Subject of the documentary shows up to class drunk. Man discusses his family's past as heroin dealers. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Out of Omaha is a 2018 documentary that follows two African American identical twin brothers coming of age in the racially-divided city of Omaha. There's frequent profanity, including "f--k" and "motherf---er." The "N" word is used by the interview subjects, and is also shown in print in an old realty company business card that said the company doesn't do business with African Americans and Asian Americans, using slurs for both. Drinking and marijuana smoking -- at parties or while recording, and the main interview subject is also shown coming into a college class drunk. News footage of riots in Omaha in the mid-1960s, as well as more recent news reports of murders, drug possession, a home invasion, and an alleged sexual assault. 

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What's the story?

OUT OF OMAHA follows Darcell Trotter from his late teens into his early 20s as he tries to make something of as life amid the institutionalized poverty and racism of North Omaha, Nebraska. He's attending college classes at the University of Nebraska, through Avenue Scholars, a scholarship program. As Trotter adjusts to college life, he's faced with the problems and temptations of his peers and the old neighborhood, compounded by a lack of money and family support. Things take a drastic turn when Darcell is accused of taking part in a home invasion and his name and mugshot are posted on the news and "Crimestoppers" alerts. He maintains his innocence, but must spend $2000 on a lawyer to defend him. After serving some jail time before being let out with a misdemeanor, Darcell joins his identical twin brother Darrell, who has been living with their father in Grand Island, Nebraska, 200 miles away. But leaving Omaha for a rural community creates its own problems as Darcell begins a new life and takes on more responsibilities. 

Is it any good?

This is an unforgettable documentary that uses a coming-of-age story to illustrate the ingrained ugliness and injustices of institutional racism. Out of Omaha begins with historical context concerning Omaha, Nebraska's history of segregation and red-lining of African Americans into the North Omaha neighborhood. It then adds commentary and insight from mentors who lived in and survived those streets to find later success. What emerges is that there are no easy solutions, and to suggest otherwise is foolish and naive. 

What makes this documentary so incredible is how this overall message resonates throughout, but it isn't delivered in a heavy-handed way. We see the problems firsthand through the lives of Darcell and Darrell Trotter as they try to achieve their dreams while navigating unforgiving realities. And in the end, you can't help but admire Darcell's restraint while talking to a newspaper editor whose paper reported on an alleged sexual assault by Trotter but didn't follow up to report that the charges were dropped. Nonetheless, hope and optimism, despite everything that has happened to the main subjects of the documentary, somehow persists. Out of Omaha is documentary filmmaking at its best. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about the deeper arguments made in the documentary. How does Out of Omaha use historical footage and interviews with adult mentors, parents, and instructors to provide context to the central story? What would be lost if the documentary didn't have these? 

  • What would the challenges in filming the same people over a number of years? 

  • How does this compare to other documentaries that communicate a bigger message about society or the world at large?

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