A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Encourages compassion, empathy, integrity, and perseverance when it comes to civil and human rights, as well as gender and racial equality. Powerful messages about need for community building, feeding and helping one another, and investing in families, education, children. One activist's message is "books not bars, jobs not jails, health care not handcuffs."
Positive Role Models
The wide range of featured folks all want to make a difference in their communities by serving, listening to, elevating the voices of underserved people and promoting compassion and community.
Violence & Scariness
Middle school students fight, and two adults have to break it up. Archival footage of White supremacists marching, the prison industrial complex, and tense/violent moments during the civil rights era.
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Occasional strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t." Also footage of a march where White supremacists chant "Jews will not replace us," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Discussion of opioid addiction, heroin abuse.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Great American Lie is a documentary by filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom that explores the systemic injustices that women and people of color have historically faced in pursuit of the so-called American Dream. Through interviews with historians, political scientists, economists, educators, and politicians, the film reveals the ways that the U.S. system is stacked against certain groups of people -- and, therefore, how much harder they have to fight to get a metaphorical seat at the table. An Oakland middle school principal talks about how difficult it is for her students, most of whom are undocumented and/or living below the poverty line, to study when they're dealing with chronic issues like food and housing insecurity, parents/caregivers who are dependent on substances, and more. On the flip side, a conservative White woman in Louisiana admits that she wasn't raised to be compassionate and has had to work to be empathetic toward others, because she's learned that being financially secure and successful isn't just a matter of hard work and discipline, like she was taught. Expect occasional strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and "bulls--t") and violent /disturbing archival footage of contemporary White supremacists and Jim Crow-era segregation, as well as middle school students fighting. Ultimately, the movie encourages compassion, empathy, integrity, and perseverance when it comes to civil and human rights, as well as gender and racial equality. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is an insightful, overtly progressive documentary about the intersection of gender and racial inequality in relation to the pursuit of the so-called American Dream. Newsom, who is married to California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), interviews an assortment of experts to explore the history of that dream. They look at why it's so much more difficult to attain for women and people of color -- particularly single women of color who make considerably less than White men or White women -- without a safety net or government support. (Given the breadth of the documentary, it seems unnecessary that Newsom decided to also interview her husband, but otherwise it's an impressive list of pundits and scholars.)
Although The Great American Lie highlights several people, the standout by far is Ruby De Tie, the principal of a charter middle school in East Oakland, California. She understands the newcomer and underserved students at her school because she was once in their shoes, growing up with a single mother who had escaped an abusive marriage. She has to counsel not only her students but also the teachers who burn out from the sympathetic trauma of educating kids who face more adversity just getting out of the door in the morning than many Americans do in a lifetime. Economists and historians affirm that the United States' investments in business, law enforcement, and defense -- instead of health care, education, and childcare -- stack the odds against many. But there aren't a lot of solutions offered other than comparisons to countries that prioritize family and fulfillment (like the Scandinavian and other high-tax, high social welfare nations) and, of course, calls for compassion, empathy, and community-building.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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