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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Secrets of War is a Dutch, English-subtitled film set during World War II that depicts a child's-eye view of war. Most of the violence is implied as Nazi soldiers round up and arrest Resistance members and Jews. People are seen running in fear from men in German uniforms. A child's arm is shown dropping a teddy bear from a deportation train; parents may decide to explain to older kids that the trains are carrying Jews to concentration camps. Kids too young to understand the complexity of prejudice, totalitarianism, and wartime occupation will nevertheless recognize jealousy and bullying by both the children and Nazis in the film. The movie has strong messages of courage and friendship.
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What's the story?
In a small Dutch village in 1943, SECRETS OF WAR follows young Tuur as he slowly realizes his parents are Resistance fighters while the family of his best friend, Lambert, are Nazis. The boys befriend a new girl at school, but she ultimately favors Tuur and reveals to him a secret -- that she is a Jew, hidden by a local farmer. Lambert's jealousy leads him to inadvertently expose her, which also exposes Tuur's family and the entire underground Resistance in the village. Wearing the Hitler Youth uniform to please his father, Lambert remains loyal to his friend, helping Tuur's family escape across the border.
Is it any good?
This film movingly depicts how war shatters the innocence of two friends divided by their parents' conflicting allegiances. Secrets of War subtly compares the exclusionary behavior and misunderstandings of childhood to the same actions magnified in adulthood. Director Dennis Bots illuminates the way bullying turns into totalitarianism and how ignorance transforms into murderous nationalism. This is an intense look at war through a child's eyes; older kids and parents will find lots to discuss and may be inspired to learn more about the topic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about WWII. What do you know about this time period? What did you learn from Secrets of War? How can you learn more?
During times of war, seemingly petty differences can have life-and-death consequences. How did ideology and politics affect the friendship between Tuur and Lambert?
Why do you think the filmmaker chose to tell a story of war and bigotry through children's eyes?
- In theaters: July 3, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2015
- Cast: Maas Bronkhuyzen, Joes Brauers, Pippa Allen
- Director: Dennis Bots
- Studio: Film Movement
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, History
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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