News / Arts & Entertainment

    Sundance Films Take On Mass Shootings and Guns in America

    The marque on the Egyptian Theatre is pictured before the opening day of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Jan. 21, 2015.
    The marque on the Egyptian Theatre is pictured before the opening day of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Jan. 21, 2015.
    Associated Press

    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.''

    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 Film Festival director John Cooper (L-R), executive director Keri Putnam and founder Robert Redford address the media at an opening day news conference for the festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, Jan. 22, 2015.
    Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper (L-R), executive director Keri Putnam and founder Robert Redford address the media at an opening day news conference for the festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah, Jan. 22, 2015.


    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 theater that day. The movie theater 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.''

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.