A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Way I See It is a documentary about former White House photographer Pete Souza, who worked under presidents Reagan and Obama. The film looks at several iconic photos of both men and addresses the elements of good leadership. It also details Souza's outspoken opposition to Donald Trump. Language is the iffiest content, with one "f--k" shown printed on a protest sign and the words "s--t," "ass," and "damn" each spoken once. The Sandy Hook massacre and Reagan's death are discussed (with some non-graphic pictures shown). People with champagne are glimpsed in some photos, and couples kiss briefly. It could have gone deeper, but it's still a deeply emotional, hopeful movie (if you share Souza's perspective on both Obama and Trump) that showcases a collection of brilliant photos.
What's the story?
In THE WAY I SEE IT, photographer Pete Souza tells the many chapters of his life story. He moved quickly from working for newspapers to becoming the official White House photographer under President Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1989. He went back to journalism after that and was eventually assigned to follow the rising career of young Illinois senator Barack Obama. This led to Souza, once again, becoming the official White House photographer. The origins of many of his iconic photos are discussed, as are the ins and outs of his job. But it was after Obama's two terms ended that Souza took to Instagram and his star really ascended. He uses the social media platform to post photos of Obama that sharply contrast with the behavior of President Trump, with whom Souza vehemently disagrees.
Is it any good?
It feels a bit thin and politically lopsided, but this film is still very much worth seeing for several reasons: its amazing photographs, Souza's humility, and its positive, hopeful vision. Directed by Dawn Porter, who also gave us the essential John Lewis: Good Trouble, The Way I See It certainly could have gone deeper. It's clearly partisan and likely not a timeless work; Souza -- and several other interviewees -- talk as often, or more often, about their opposition to Trump than about anything personal in Souza's life. His portraits of Reagan and Obama behaving in ways that are presented as presidential and professional are used to sharply contrast Trump's more haphazard, deceptive way of governing.
But what the movie lacks in personal details, it makes up for in Souza's up-front candidness. In talking about his life and his good fortune, he frequently chokes up and gets teary-eyed. A sequence in which Obama badgers Souza into marrying his longtime girlfriend will prompt huge smiles and require a few hankies. Souza wears his heart on his sleeve, and his deep love and respect for Obama and the office of the president come out clearly, just like his fury about Trump's behavior while in office. As a huge coffee-table book in motion, The Way I See It beautifully showcases Souza's best photos as he explains their origins. Their depictions of kindness, intelligence, and empathy offer hope that the White House could be like that again one day.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Way I See It addresses both violence and death, specifically the Sandy Hook shootings and the death of President Reagan. How are these things handled? What's shown and not shown? How did you react?
What are the qualities of a good leader, according to the movie? Do you agree? Why, or why not? Do you have to agree with Souza's opinions of Obama and Trump to enjoy this movie?
What is empathy? Is it an important quality for a leader? How can a leader demonstrate empathy?
Do you think Souza's Instagram posts have had an impact on people? Do you see them as a form of resistance or activism? Why, or why not?
Did the movie make you see Reagan or Obama in a new way? If so, how? How did the photographs contribute to that?
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