Tonight, HBO will air a new documentary on gun violence in America. The film, Requiem for the Dead: American Spring 2014, highlights the gruesome deaths of just a few of the 30,000 victims of gun violence that died in the United States in 2014.
Directors, Nick Doob and Shari Cookson, personalize what have come be all too familiar news stories themes, like murder-suicide, accidental shootings and gang-violence, by giving the dead victims a voice. Rather than tell the victims' story through survivors' accounts, throughout the film, the directors use the victims' own social media posts about their lives to tell the story. This leaves the watcher with a more personal (and chilling) account of the events leading up to the gun deaths -- including proms, marriage, children and divorce. The result is a powerful film well worth watching.
If you're not lucky enough to have HBO, here are four other films worth watching about gun violence in America:
Living for 32 -- This documentary film, produced by Kenneth Cole and Maria Cuomo, centers around Collin Goddard a survivor of the Virginia Tech Massacre, that killed 32 of his university classmates. In addition to Goddard's recollection of the events, the film incorporates his parents' and friends' memories about the day of the shooting and the aftermath. At one powerful point in the film a friend, who also survived the shooting, discusses the paths people take after a traumatic event, like a mass shooting. We are left to not only ponder what path we would take but also to witness Goddard's path forward- both towards progress and closure.
Shell Shocked -- This documentary is about gun violence in New Orleans. Different from other films on this list, Shell Shocked focuses on not only direct victims of gun violence but also on those individuals who are frequently forgotten- children in poverty. Director John Richie poses the violence problem in New Orleans as both an issue of easy access to firearms and lack of access to alternatives to violence. The message of this film is extremely timely as New Orleans reflects on ten years of progress and recovery since Hurricane Katrina.
Bowling For Columbine -- In his best-received documentary, director Michael Moore takes on gun violence in America. While some of Moore's critics question his tactics and self-promotion, at the very least his in-your-face approach creates an entertaining and somewhat educational piece on guns in America. In the span of just two hours, the filmmaker manages to present the problem of gun violence, introduces us to possible causes and confronts the NRA head-on in an interview with the late Charlton Heston. Moore also points out that gun violence in the U.S. is 65 times greater than neighboring Canada but sadly fails to expose the primary reason, unrestricted access to handguns without background checks or oversight by law enforcement compared to Canada where rifles are prevalent but it's virtually impossible to purchase handguns .
Beautiful Boy -- This is the only purely fictional film on this list. It stars Maria Bello and Michael Sheen as the parents of an 18-year-old boy who goes on a shooting rampage at his college before taking his own life. The film brings to life the difficulty parents must face when they are in this all too familiar scenario. The film does an excellent job portraying the alienation of the shooter's parents from their community in a realistic way, while allowing us to be sympathetic to both the parents and the community.
Over 150 Americans are shot and 83 die from gun violence every day in the United States. Since the horrific massacre of 20 first graders and six caregivers at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, there have been over 100 more school shootings and over 78,000 more Americans killed by guns in the United States.
As these films portray, the solutions to gun violence are relatively simple, if only Congress would put public safety before self-interest and gun industry campaign contributions, Universal criminal background checks, and other reasonable restrictions, such as limiting unrestricted access to concealed handguns, military style weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines have proven to dramatically reduce preventable gun violence.
A prime example has been set by urban industrial Massachusetts that has enacted commonsense legislation and regulations that have proven to reduce gun deaths. Since 1994 Massachusetts has reduced gun deaths by 45 percent. Until Congress is held accountable the only thing for certain is that we'll be seeing more preventable gun violence and more sad films about the victims.