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Dinner and a Movie: Food, Fun and Conversation About Family History

Posted on: February 11th, 2020 by Bri DeRosa


While eating dinner in front of the television isn’t something we recommend every night, sometimes a change of pace can help promote more fun, conversation and connection than the same old routine! That’s why we’ve launched our Dinner and a Movie feature. Throughout the year, we’ll be teaming up with our friends at Common Sense Media to choose family-friendly movies that can help you promote character building while enjoying some fun time together. When you pair them with our suggestions for food, fun and conversation, you can have a memorable Dinner and a Movie experience that turns screen time into family bonding time that everyone will look forward to.

Explore Food, Fun and Conversation About Family History and Culture

Family dinner is the perfect place to share about your history, traditions and culture. Research has shown that when kids feel a sense of connection to their family stories, they have a greater sense of belonging and develop more resilience than peers who are less knowledgeable about their heritage. And when we gather to share a meal, we often open up about our pasts: where a certain family recipe came from, who taught us to make it, the experiences we’ve lived through that remind us of something our loved ones are going through right now. Celebrate that sense of connection to ancestry with a fun family movie night!

Movie Recommendations from The Family Dinner Project and Common Sense Media:

Blinded by the Light (13+)
Crazy Rich Asians (13+)
Kubo and the Two Strings (9+)
American Girl Story: Ivy and Julie (8+)
Coco (7+)
The Book of Life (7+)


Origami dumplings

Make a special family recipe and talk about why it’s important to your family’s traditions or culture. Or make a recipe that complements the film you’re watching! For example, if you’re watching Crazy Rich Asians, Kubo and the Two Strings or Ivy and Julie, try folding Origami Dumplings together. For Coco or The Book of Life, you might make Atole de Vainilla


Family history can be fun! Celebrate yours by working together to make a Family Tree, or play a game of “Which One…?” to help keep your family stories alive.


Watching a movie together can spark lots of interesting conversations. To kick things off, choose from our Family History conversation starters, or go deeper with additional questions related to the movie you’ve chosen. Special thanks to our friends at Common Sense Media for sharing their conversation starter ideas for these films!

Talk About: Family History

  • Tell me your favorite story about our family. Why do you like that story in particular?
  • Do you know any stories about your grandparents when they were kids? How about your great-grandparents? Tell us the story!
  • If you had to describe our family using only three words, what words would you choose?
  • What is a quality of someone in our family that you admire, and hope to share?
  • What family tradition do you hope to carry on for future generations?
  • Have you ever participated in a tradition or celebration from another culture? What was that like?
  • What part of your family history or culture would you like to learn more about?
  • What’s one culture different from your own that interests you? How could you become more familiar with that culture?
  • Do you know any stories about family members moving to this country from another place? Do they have to flee, come without free will, or come looking for new opportunity?

If You’re Watching Blinded by the Light:

  • Talk about the conflict between Javed and his father. Why do they disagree with each other? Is tradition more important than following your passion?
  • How does the movie portray Pakistani parenting and families vs. English parenting and families? What point do you think it’s trying to make?
  • How do Javed and his father learn to empathize with each other? Why can it be hard to see things from someone else’s point of view?
  • It doesn’t always seem as though Javed is going to stick with his dreams of becoming a writer. What convinces him to persevere?

If  You’re Watching Crazy Rich Asians:

  • Talk about the way American and Chinese cultures are portrayed. American culture is presented as prioritizing the pursuit of career, ambition, and happiness, while Chinese culture is shown emphasizing family first, even if that means individual sacrifice. What are the pros and cons of each philosophy?
  • Do you think the film perpetuates stereotypes or challenges them?
  • Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood studio feature set entirely in the present with an all-Asian/Asian American cast. Why is that notable? Why does representation matter in movies, TV, and books?
  • How do the characters defy stereotypes, both in terms of ethnicity and gender? What makes Rachel a positive female character? Why is it important for kids to see a wide range of behavior from both genders in the media they consume?



If You’re Watching An American Girl Story: Ivy and Julie:

  • Talk about the commonalities and differences you notice between Ivy’s family’s culture and the general American one. Why is it so important to the characters that they not lose touch with their Chinese heritage? Does your family incorporate touches of your heritage in your home or celebrations?
  • What is the value of diversity in our society?
  • How does your family keep the lines of communication open? Why is this important among people who care about each other? What other character strengths are important?

If You’re Watching Kubo and the Two Strings:

  • How does Kubo demonstrate courage? Why is that an important character strength? What role do empathy, perseverance, and communication play in the story, too?
  • How does the movie depict the importance of storytelling? How does Kubo bring joy to his village?

If You’re Watching The Book of Life:

  • Talk about the pressure to live up to expectations. Can you relate to Manolo and Joaquin’s feeling that they can’t fill the shoes of the family that came before them in The Book of Life? What’s the best way to handle that type of situation?
  • Manolo, Maria, and Joaquin all ultimately realize that they must follow their own paths. Kids: Is it ever OK to defy your parents’ wishes?
  • How do the characters in The Book of Life demonstrate integrity? Why is this an important character strength?

If You’re Watching Coco:

  • Talk about the movie’s theme of family duty vs. personal ambition. Which characters in Coco are role models, and which character strengths do they demonstrate?
  • Did you already know about the Day of the Dead? If not, what did you learn about the holiday? How does your family pay tribute to relatives and loved ones after they’ve passed away? Which other Mexican traditions and values does the movie promote?
  • Which holidays, music, and other cultural traditions do you celebrate with your family?
  • Did you notice that characters speak both English and Spanish in the movie? Would you like to learn a second language?
  • For bilingual families: Why do you think it’s important or useful to speak two languages? How does language connect you with your heritage — and your family?

Look for more Dinner and a Movie ideas coming soon!