A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
A clear case of racial injustice in the murder of the documentary filmmaker's older brother and the profound grief experienced by the filmmaker and his family in the trial's aftermath.
Positive Role Models
The filmmaker shows tremendous courage, integrity, and honesty in presenting the personal grief experienced by a family after the senseless shooting death of his brother.
Violence & Scariness
The shooting death of the filmmaker's older brother, a young African-American man, the pain a family experiences in the injustice of the acquittal by an all-white jury of the white man who killed him, and the grief and despair felt in the man's loss are shown. No direct violence, but the incident is related by a friend who was there when it happened.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief mention of the filmmaker sneaking into the room of his older brother and looking at his copies of Playboy and Forum and how it led to the filmmaker's awakening to identify as "queer," which would later lead to coming out as a lesbian in college and a transgendered male years later.
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"F--k" used several times, especially in the aftermath of a difficult phone conversation. "S--t," "badass," "damn."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Strong Island is a 2017 documentary chronicling the murder of the filmmaker's older brother in 1992 and the ensuing grief and racial injustice that devastated his family. Although it's the story of a young and upstanding African-American man shot and killed by a white teenage boy who is later acquitted of murder by an all-white grand jury, the movie takes great pains to place the killing in the broader context of deeply rooted institutional racism. However, the documentary primarily focuses on the long-term suffering a family experiences as they try to make sense of the senseless -- a facet, depth, and nuance rarely seen in the typical mass-media coverage of homicides, especially in the African-American community. As such, there are moments of raw and unflinching expressions of deep sorrow that could be too intense for some viewers. There's some cursing, including "f--k." There's a brief mention of the filmmaker sneaking into the room of his older brother and looking at his copies of Playboy and Forum, and how it led to the filmmaker's awakening to identify as "queer," which would later lead to coming out as a lesbian in college and a transgendered male years later. It's an unsettling, challenging, and deeply personal account of an incomprehensibly horrible incident -- an incident clearly shown not to be isolated, but a product of the racism of the past, and a harbinger of the more recent news stories of the shooting deaths of unarmed African-American men. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
What makes Strong Island a truly unforgettable documentary is how it conveys the racism of America in both deeply historical and deeply personal terms. Instead of focusing exclusively on the central incident of the movie -- the racial injustice in the shooting death of filmmaker Yance Ford's older brother in 1992 -- Ford uses the personal history of his family and their experiences with the insidiousness of institutional racism in the broader context of what it means to be African-American in the United States. He explores how a hardworking middle-class family who played by the rules and instilled a strong sense of values in their children went through a profound loss compounded by justice not being served.
The personal anecdotes of family members and diary entries of Ford go far to humanize and provide a depth and nuance to a crime that TV, digital, and print media rarely bother showing, especially when it's an African-American man who was shot and killed. The emotional scars are still so clearly seen and felt, over two decades after the incident. And the relevance to today's sadly common news stories of unarmed African-American men shot and killed in cold blood is obvious. Strong Island forces audiences to acknowledge how the institutional racism that lies at the very core of America's birth and existence runs much deeper and penetrates much further into the very fabric of day-to-day existence than some want to believe.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.