Parents' Guide to

Our Towns

By Martin Brown, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

OK docu profiles six small towns and their singularities.

TV Max, HBO Educational 2021
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How do communities successfully recover from devastating events? That's the question that Our Towns asks, but there's a lack of journalistic quality that makes the answers feel dated and disingenuous. Everything is experienced through authors' James and Deborah Fallows' point of view, and they can never quite see around their own biases. They focus almost exclusively on government and business initiatives, ignoring grassroots movements and local activism. Even though they travel to marginalized communities, the programs featured are run almost exclusively by White people. The documentary fails to approach anything on more than a surface level, so important questions about goals, success rates, funding, or anything else fall by the wayside. At one point, the film even extols the virtues of high interest rates, because, it argues, credit card companies employ immigrants! Deborah Fallows describes the film as having an interest in "local issues that fall outside the division of national politics," which is, of course, a political stance that is designed to sound apolitical. But it's tough to be apolitical and pro-credit card debt at the same time. Ignoring the relationship between national events and these struggles in small communities would be a strange choice if Our Towns was truly interested in solutions to the socioeconomic problems they address. But that choice might also explain why Our Towns feels more interested in tourism than activism.

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