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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
There's a history of the cruelty of white people against Blacks that hides in silence in this country. We are haunted in America by our history of racial inequality based on a belief that Black people aren't fully human. Like South Africa after apartheid, America needs a truth and reconciliation process to heal racial wounds but that requires that Americans first admit wrongdoing.
Positive Role Models
Stevenson has seemingly sacrificed his life to help unjustly accused people be removed from death row, and also guilty people who received unfair trials or were sentenced improperly, including juveniles, the disabled, and mentally impaired.
Violence & Scariness
The history of white American treatment of Black people in this country includes enslavement, lynchings, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and over-ambitious incarceration of Black citizens. Photos of lynchings, approving mobs, and hanging bodies are shown. Stevenson recalls that in 1971, white parents in Florida yanked their kids out of a hotel swimming pool that Bryan and his sister had just entered. When he asked a parent what was wrong, the parent said, "You're wrong," and called him the "N" word. Stevenson recalls having to call a client on death row to inform him that his legal efforts couldn't stop the execution from going forward. Students collect soil samples from the sites of lynchings and put them in jars labeled with victims' names, to be displayed in Montgomery's Legacy Museum as a reminder of brutality against Black people. References are made to rape charges.
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There's repeated use by adults and kids of the "N" word.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Stevenson suggests that downtrodden Black citizens turn to illegal drugs and crime to make a living in a world where better, legitimate ways of making money are closed off to them.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality is a 2019 HBO documentary about a Black attorney who fights for the rights of Black defendants mistreated by the American justice system. His story is also told in the 2019 release Just Mercy, featuring Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson. Stevenson narrates stories about innocent Black defendants, one imprisoned and charged with murder, without evidence, and held for 30 years until the efforts of Stevenson and his team were able to free him. From there, Stevenson shows how a history of enslavement, lynchings, Jim Crow policies, segregation, and other indignities have created a false narrative of white superiority over Black people that many accept as true. Language includes the "N" word. The movie describes and lingers on disturbing images of lynchings that legal authorities in the U.S. turned a blind eye to as late as 1933. Stevenson suggests that downtrodden Black citizens turn to illegal drugs and crime to make a living in a world where better, legitimate ways of making money are closed off to them. 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 important and moving documentary. True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality lays out the historic scar on America that began with enslavement and went on through lynchings, oppressive Jim Crow laws, segregation, and other brutal and discriminatory policies. Attorney Bryan Stevenson is the perfect spokesman for this cause, radiating compassion and decency as he eloquently compares the history of slavery with the brutality of South Africa's apartheid, the Rwandan government's genocide policies, and Nazi Germany's efforts to wipe out European Jewry. He argues that unlike the other countries that have admitted their mistakes, America still glorifies a narrative of the great old days of the South. In Germany, he points out, sites of abductions of Jewish families are publicly marked, and laws require remembrance of that government's wrong-doing, policies that helped that country heal. In the United States, he suggests, where only recently the proliferation of Confederate monuments has been questioned, civil rights activists won the legal battle, but the narrative battle was won by those allowed to hold on to the view that there are differences between Black people and white people.
The directing team of veteran documentary maker Peter Kunhardt and his filmmaking sons George and Teddy have together worked on wide-ranging projects including the PBS show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the documentary John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls. They bring experience, talent, and restraint to this necessary project, one that would be a vital addition to every teen's understanding of continuing inequality in this country today.
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