Funny, poignant, and thought-provoking, Brother Future and African Journey examine racial and cultural issues from the perspectives of teenagers confronting such topics for the first time. Although the release of these WonderWorks films is timed to coincide with the February observance of Black History Month, the themes they explore transcend artificial chronological boundaries. Parents ought to watch these dramas with their kids, not only because they’re appealing for adults but also because children are likely to have questions about the subjects.
In African Journey, Luke Novak, a Canadian, travels to a village in southeastern Africa to visit his father, who has taken a job at a copper mine. The teen befriends Themba Maposa, a boy about his age, and Themba’s younger sister, Tulani. Luke witnesses the dismal state of medical care in rural Africa when he sees a child die from the measles simply because medication is not readily available. He also discovers the emotional consequences of forced marriages, and learns to respect religious rites he initially ridiculed. Finally Luke realizes the importance of something as ordinary as water when the village’s pump breaks. Unfortunately, Jason Blicker, who plays Luke, comes across as wooden and bereft of genuine emotion. His shortcomings are painfully apparent because Themba and Tulani (Pedzisai Sithole and Eldinah Tshatedi, both of whom are from Zimbabwe) are graceful performers seemingly unaware of the camera. Despite weeks of immersion in a new culture, Luke seems out of it in Africa. B