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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is not a dog movie, but rather a poignant tale of an African American family set in the Depression-era South. Sometimes violent acts of racism are portrayed, and a father steals food to feed his family and ends up in jail. Both the dog of the title and another animal are hurt by humans. Themes of faith and belief in times of trouble underscore a religious sensibility in the film.
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What's the story?
In this 2003 version of a film based on William H. Armstrong's Newberry-award winning book, SOUNDER tells the story of a young boy (Daniel Lee Robertson III) who sets off on a quest to find his sharecropper father (Carl Lumbly), put in jail for stealing a ham to feed his hungry family. Set during the Depression era, the boy's family is bound together through hard times with faith and love. A stray hunting dog, Sounder, becomes an emblem of the belief and affection that helps the boy endure racism and pursue a rare chance at education.
Is it any good?
In the hands of director Kevin Hooks, who played the boy in the 1972 film version, Armstrong's coming-of-age tale is treated with great care. Robertson captures the growing confidence of the boy as he pursues his difficult task, and the movie also features Paul Winfield, who played the father in the first film, as the boy's teacher. Suzzanne Douglas as the mother radiates faith, hope, and a backbone of steel in each scene.
The movie does a good job capturing the day-to-day worries of blacks in the South during the 1930s, and the inhumanity of the southern prison labor system. It also underscores the life-changing value of education, particularly for the disenfranchised. The suspense and pain caused by the father's imprisonment, as well as a protracted disappearance by the dog, would likely make this too intense for viewers younger than 12.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the boy's wish to learn to read. Why was it so important to him? Why would his parents have been opposed? Why do you think it was possible for the boy's father to go to jail and then virtually disappear into the prison system? Do you think that could happen today?
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