Parents' Guide to

The Color of Friendship

By Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Smart Disney drama tackles race and apartheid; racist slurs.

Movie NR 2000 87 minutes
The Color of Friendship Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 8+

Pretty good Disney drama mixes feel good story with racism, politics, police brutality

Recommended by Common Sense for bringing up race issues, my 8 year old and I both really liked it, even though she had expected a happier ending (more like the Disney princess movies). The story is moving along pretty fast, the acting is surprisingly good, and despite some predictable moments, it is fun to watch. The plot is sweet and relatable: An American family wants to take in an exchange student and a South African family wants to send one, and the two girls (13-14 year old) become friends. There is an early, great plot twist that makes the movie more enjoyable. What is astounding is that this 80 minute movie deals with racism, politics, and police brutality. It is all set in the late '70s , against the backdrop of Steve Beko's capture and death at the hands of South African police. Several characters are entitled, prejudiced or racist, others are on the receiving end of this. The movie displays their actions and goes to great length to show how peoples' lives and thinking are part of a society that acts and thinks that way. The story does a great job of not avoiding hard issues but also addressing them in a way that young children can understand and grasp. There are some tense and sad scenes, but nothing that upset my daughter too much. The "unhappy" ending is that the South African student goes back home even though she seems much happier in a free country with her American hosts. But she is clearly ready to help make a change at home and she inspired her American hosts to be less prejudiced.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 18+

sense able media for kids

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (1):

A smart, intricate portrayal of racism and the political climate of the 1970s, both in the U.S. and South Africa. The movie won a Primetime Emmy and stands out from the usual Disney Channel Original Movies as an intelligent exploration of the more difficult issues of society -- while still maintaining a warm, family feel. The performances are complex and believable and the era well defined -- particularly in a fun mall montage, where Mahree and Piper unite as teenagers, messing around and trying on clothes.

The racism and segregation of South Africa at the time is portrayed in a few poignant scenes, and the effects of apartheid outside of the country, as well as the shadow of slavery in the U.S., are portrayed as complex and nuanced. Mahree expects the Dellums to carry her bags and is surprised that Ron (Carl Lumbly) holds a high-powered position and lives in a wealthy area -- assumptions based on the way her own society works. But the family gradually understands that her behaviors are based in systemic racism, rather than personal views. A scene when Mahree is on the verge of returning home shows how quickly relationships can break down when assumptions are made on both sides. The Color of Friendship tackles the subject of racism with intricacy and heart, and shows the power of education and love above all else. Its strong message is still incredibly important today and, wrapped in a tale of family and friendship, can be heard by all ages and races.

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