Generally speaking, however, Out of Omaha is effective because it doesn’t cater to our traditional understanding of what makes someone “deserving.” Likable as the Trotter twins are, after all, they and their family are hardly perfect. The two of them consume and sell weed, while their father is a drug addict who’s spent time in prison. Towards the start of the film, it’s suggested that Darcell doesn’t put effort into his schoolwork, and at one point, Darrell talks about a time when he took a gun and tried to kill somebody.
“…effective because it doesn’t cater to our traditional understanding of what makes someone ‘deserving.’“
With determined persistence, Out of Omaha explains why you’d be wrong to hold all of these things against the Trotters. Darcell and Darrell sell weed not because they’re good-for-nothings, but because there’s no other way to make money in their neighborhood. Similarly, drug addiction and attempted murder are undeniably bad things, but they’re bound to occur in an environment where violence and drug dealing are the norm. And while Darcell might seem like a slacker, it’s hard to focus on schoolwork when you constantly have to deal with gangs and family issues back at home.
In today’s political arena, the Trotters would likely be pilloried as “moochers” or “welfare bums.” The power of Out of Omaha, however, is that it punctures these stereotypes. With a level of empathy that recalls Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Tweel persuasively explains why Darcell and Darrell do things that seem reckless or irrational, and he also shows that the twins’ success in life will depend on factors largely out of their control. This documentary has the kind of nuance and intelligence that our public discourse could sorely use – and ultimately, it’s everyone’s loss that the film is getting next to no attention outside of Nebraska.