The Friendliest Town

Movie review by
Sabrina McFarland, Common Sense Media
The Friendliest Town Movie Poster Image
Timely docu about trailblazing Black police chief; language.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 77 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

One person can make a difference. Stand up for your rights. Have the courage to try new things. Lend a helping hand.

Positive Role Models

Kelvin Sewell is named first African American police chief of Pocomoke City, Maryland. He initiates new procedures for patrolling in the community. To better engage with citizens, police officers park their cars and begin to walk the streets greeting residents. This leads to a lower crime rate, zero homicides, praise from residents. Diverse coalition Citizens for a Better Pocomoke endorses Sewell's efforts. His workplace experiences also play a part in his daughter's choice of study at law school. City council becomes more inclusive in aftermath of Sewell's story. Movie features diverse news reporting and filmmaking crews.

Violence

Allegations of child assault and mentions of the city's crime rate.

Sex

Rumors about an alleged pregnancy from an extramarital affair and solicitations for sex.

Language

"F--k" and the "N" word are used. Display of a food stamp coupon bearing the image of former President Barack Obama.

Consumerism

Images of small-business storefronts and McDonald's location.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Claims about the community's open market drug trade. Scene with vape pen use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Friendliest Town is a riveting documentary about systemic racism and one man's mission to end it. When the first African American police chief in Pocomoke City, Maryland, is fired without explanation, lawsuits are launched, along with allegations of racism, misconduct, and workplace harassment. Language includes the "N" word and "f--k." There's a display of a food stamp coupon bearing the image of former President Barack Obama. Drugs are mentioned and vaping is seen. There are rumors about an alleged pregnancy from an extramarital affair and solicitations for sex. The movie includes the powerful themes of courage, perseverance, and teamwork.

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What's the story?

When Kelvin Sewell is named police chief in 2011, he makes history. Sewell becomes the first African American selected for the position in Pocomoke City, Maryland. He soon introduces a new method of law enforcement. Sewell and his officers park their patrol cars. Then, the team walks the streets to get to better know the city's citizens. Their tactics lead to a lower crime rate, no homicides, and praise from residents. But in 2015, Sewell is terminated from his job without explanation. An African American council member describes the community as "a small town and everybody knows everybody, but there are some underlying racial problems here." Lawsuits are launched, along with allegations of racism, misconduct, and workplace harassment.

Is it any good?

Director and investigative reporter Stephen Janis produces a compelling portrait of African American police chief Kelvin Sewell, who maintains his courage in the face of adversity. One of the film’s most difficult scenes to watch is an older African American man speaking about the segregationist rules of a local theater. He remembers that "Blacks were upstairs and the Whites were downstairs." He also recalls that African Americans "had to be off the streets at a certain time," otherwise "the police would get you." The history of Pocomoke City's past and Sewell's progressive steps to make a difference in the community offer parents and teens an opportunity to discuss the issue of race in a period now striving for social change.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the teamwork of Police Chief Kelvin Sewell in The Friendliest Town. How does he also demonstrate compassioncourage, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

  • In what ways does the movie help or hurt Sewell's reputation? How will Sewell's life as a trailblazer be remembered in Pocomoke City history?

  • What makes Sewell a role model? What work and social pressures may a Black police officer face?

  • Why is there debate over use of the "N" word? What is the origin of the term?

  • How important is the support of Sewell by Citizens for a Better Pocomoke after his job loss? How can lending a helping hand impact someone?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love African American stories

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