Review by Sean Boelman
One of a slew of documentaries about the subject, Cheryl Horner’s Parkland Rising examines the epidemic of gun violence in schools across America in light of the recent increase in school shootings. And while the film’s approach is far from perfect, it advocates for its messages in an effective way.
The movie follows the survivors and parents of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida as they become political activists fighting for increased gun control laws. This is one of the most heartbreaking stories in recent years, hence why its aftermath stands out as one of the most pressing current issues.
There is obviously a very political angle to the film, as there should be, and it’s much more effective in this case than it has been in other documentaries. One of the single most effective moments in the movie shows one of the survivors having a civil but heated debate with a group of pro-gun protesters. It is this discussion that is what our country needs, and Horner is able to capture that.
The film focuses on a handful of the most prevalent activists, many of which audiences will already be familiar with from their numerous public appearances. Although it would be devastating to see a documentary take a more comprehensive look at the situation, it’s understandable why that may not be entirely practical.
By focusing on these individuals, Horner gives the audience a clear anchor in the story. It’s often easier to connect with a person than it is an idea, and so the movie emphasizes survivor David Hogg. Because of this, even those who may be indecisive or on the edge will feel more inclined to take a deeper glance at things.
Additionally, this smaller scale allows the film to feel a lot more cohesive than it would have if it had taken more of a “big picture” approach. For many, it is impossible to imagine what these people are going through, but this movie does an excellent job of showing why everyone should care about this even if they won’t be feeling it themselves.
On a technical level, the film is very well-done. Horner uses a combination of interviews and fly-on-the-wall footage to tell her subject’s stories, and it is effective at making the movie feel very personal. The depiction of the crisis itself is limited and effective, just enough to provide context for those who are less informed but not too much to feel excessive or manipulative.
Even though it won’t be the last, Parkland Rising is likely the best film about the topic to be released yet. It’s a harrowing watch in many ways, but this is a very necessary conversation to be had in today’s society.
Parkland Rising debuts via live-stream on June 2 with an encore showing on June 5. A link to RSVP can be found here.