Sundance films take on mass shootings and guns in America

PARK CITY, Utah -- Gun violence was on the minds of more than a few filmmakers this year.

The ongoing issue was the main subject of four new films at the Sundance Film Festival -- two feature documentaries ("Newtown," "Under the Gun") one short documentary, "Speaking is Difficult," and one feature, "Dark Night.

See Full Article

"

The wave of films dealing with essentially the same subject -- mass shootings in America -- is both a coincidence and an indicator that the filmmaking community is engaging with the national consciousness.

"We don't program films based on ideas we have of what issues we want to spark conversations about at the festival. We respond to the films," said Trevor Groth, Sundance's director of programming. "Those films stood out to us because of the way they were made and the power within them."

Sundance founder Robert Redford echoed Groth's sentiments, joking that if they did seek out certain issues to spotlight, he'd make sure there would be lots of environmentalist films. But he also sees why the gun issue is so urgent for filmmakers.

"Guns, of course, are a big issue," Redford said. "It's not just going to sit there because the deaths keep coming. It's going to keep rising up and rising up and it's going to get heated and I think there will be some resolve of some kind. I think it's time."

"Speaking Is Difficult" director AJ Schnack believes the multiple films were borne out of frustration and a feeling of powerlessness.

"I think it's great that filmmakers are addressing this topic and are going to come at it from a bunch of different perspectives," Schnack said. "It gives people permission to ignite those conversations in their communities and with their families and elected officials."

Here's a look at the various ways filmmakers tackled the subject:

NEWTOWN

Director Kim Snyder goes deep into the community of Newtown, Connecticut, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings where 20 children and 6 educators were murdered.

In her documentary, Snyder explores the lives of those affected by the tragedy -- the parents of children who were killed, parents of children who survived, Sandy Hook teachers, local law enforcement, religious leaders, and even a volunteer EMT.

"I didn't really have any big agenda," Snyder said, other than showing the community truthfully. "But, as (Sandy Hook parent) David Wheeler says, the people who have the most motivation to allow that intrusion of a camera are people who, as he said, feel compelled to say something or do something that might prevent another town or family from having to go through this."

DARK NIGHT

"Dark Night" is the sole narrative feature in the bunch, and deals with a mass shooting in a Florida suburb. The not-so-oblique title references the Aurora, Colorado, massacre of 2012 during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

"It starts with the massacre in Aurora," director Tim Sutton said. "There was something that happened to the movie theatre that day. The movie theatre became unsafe. It became corrupted, possibly forever. I felt as a filmmaker a responsibility to try to touch on this theme."

UNDER THE GUN

Katie Couric and director Stephanie Soechtig ("Fed Up") returned to Sundance with a sweeping overview of guns in America -- melding jaw-dropping stats (like how gun stores outnumber Starbucks and McDonald's combined in the U.S.), historical perspective (how the NRA used to stay out of politics), and emotional accounts from the families of the deceased (including mothers in Chicago and the brother of a girl killed in Aurora). They also speak to a variety of pro-gun advocates, from those who support background checks to those who scoff at the idea.

"Even people who've been immersed in this issue for years told us they learned some things from the film," Couric said. "I was surprised how the NRA's tentacles spread so far and wide and how the organization has its finger prints on so many things."

SPEAKING IS DIFFICULT

"Speaking is Difficult" may never be finished. The short documentary is a living film, meaning every time there is another mass shooting, director AJ Schnack and his team will update it. He'd submitted a rough cut of the film to Sundance months ago and had to update it twice since then as new events occurred.

Schnack's film shows the locations of the shootings, as they exist now, overlaid with 911 calls from the event.

"It's becoming almost a ritual where an event happens, there is a level of outrage for a few days and then as it gets further away it recedes and we go through it again," Schnack said. "The events were starting to become like echoes of previous events."

Schnack found the now-normalcy of the settings quite striking.

"A lot of the locations have returned to being the same place -- a restaurant, a salon, a school," he said. "People walk past as if nothing has happened."



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • BET Awards sees Remy Ma beat Nicki Minaj as 90s R&B shines

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Remy Ma has ended rival Nicki Minaj’s seven-year winning streak at the 2017 BET Awards, a show highlighted by ’90s R&B and groups popular in that decade. Ma, who returned from jail in 2014, won best female hip hop artist Sunday in Los Angeles, an award Minaj has won since 2010. Source
  • The Flash actor in upcoming Spider-Man movie happy producers didn't require Latino explanation

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actor Tony Revolori has heaped praise on the writers and producers of the new Spider-Man movie for not explaining why his character, The Flash, is Latino. The Grand Budapest Hotel star plays the speedy superhero in Spider-Man: Homecoming and still can’t believe producers Amy Pascal and Kevin Feige just let his character exist in the film. Source
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger teams with French president to troll Trump on Twitter

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Arnold Schwarzenegger allied with France’s leader Emmanuel Macron to take a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump over climate change. Schwarzenegger and Macron teamed up to post a social media video in which they vowed to join forces to “make the planet great again”. Source
  • Chance the Rapper honoured at BET Awards

    Entertainment CTV News
    At the tender age of 24, Chance the Rapper has accepted the humanitarian award during the BET Awards on Sunday for his work in his hometown of Chicago, winning over fans for both his musical talents and his philanthropic efforts. Source
  • Remy Ma endes Nicki Minaj's winning streak at BET Awards

    Entertainment CTV News
    Remy Ma has ended rival Nicki Minaj's seven-year winning streak at the 2017 BET Awards, a show highlighted by '90s R&B and groups popular in that decade. Ma, who returned from jail in 2014, won best female hip hop artist Sunday in Los Angeles, an award Minaj has won since 2010. Source
  • One Direction star Louis Tomlinson admits he 'didn't like the idea of a One Direction hiatus'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Louis Tomlinson has revealed he was the most reluctant member of One Direction to agree to a band hiatus. The boy band opted to take a break from fans and each other at the end of 2015 and each member has now enjoyed solo success, with Louis admitting he’s still surprised he put something out without his pals. Source
  • Netflix cancels Charlize Theron's Girlboss after just one season

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Charlize Theron’s hard-hitting new Netflix series Girlboss has been cancelled after just one season. The show, inspired by Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography and starring Britt Robertson, was developed and produced by Theron through her Denver & Delilah production company. Source
  • Diane Keaton: 'I was bulimic in my 20s'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actress Diane Keaton has revealed she secretly battled bulimia in her early 20s. Now 71, the Annie Hall star admits she even kept her eating disorder issues from her then partner Woody Allen. Keaton only got to grips with the problem after she realized she desperately needed help, and sought out counselling. Source
  • Worst-performing live-action 'Transformers' film tops box office [Photos] [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — The hulking machines of Transformers are no longer box-office behemoths in North America. But they’re still big in China. Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight, the fifth instalment in the Hasbro series, scored a franchise-low domestic debut with an estimated US$43.5 million in ticket sales over the weekend and a five-day total of $69.1 million since opening Wednesday. Source
  • One Direction's Louis Tomlinson dished to mom after losing virginity

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Louis Tomlinson was so close to his late mother that she was the first person he told about losing his virginity. The One Direction star, 25, was left devastated when he lost Johannah Deakin to cancer in December last year. Source