Review by Sean Boelman
Documentarian Kim A. Snyder has spent much of her recent career commenting on the issue of gun violence that has plagued the country, particularly in regards to school shootings. Her newest film Us Kids isn’t the first movie on the Parkland shooting, nor is it without its flaws, but it’s a step in the right direction.
In the film, Snyder follows some of the survivors of the Parkland shooting as they become activists speaking out against gun violence and in support of legislation that would prevent tragedies like this from happening again. At this point, with all the news coverage, everyone knows this story, but Snyder takes a more personal approach to the subject.
Most of the other documentaries so far have focused on the more outspoken and higher-profile voices that surfaced after the tragedy, like David Hogg and Emma González. Although both of them have a part in this documentary, Snyder focuses more on the people whose experiences and perspectives haven’t gotten as much screen time.
Something that people often forget when telling this story is that these activists have wisdom beyond their age, but as the title suggests, they were kids when this tragedy happened to them. Snyder does a great job of humanizing them as more than just their trauma by having multiple sequences that simply show them being kids doing things that kids do.
Obviously, as is the case with the rest of Snyder’s movies, there is a clear message to be taken away about the epidemic of gun violence. But what makes this film stand out is the fact that it succeeds in exploring the nuances of the discussion. It’s not black-and-white by any means, and Snyder is among the first filmmakers to truly acknowledge that.
Additionally, Snyder doesn’t go for the easy emotional punches. There is minimal use of footage from the incident, and to good effect, but the focus is more on getting the audience to recognize the power in how they are taking the pain they have suffered and using it to educate and inspire the rest of the world.
Snyder’s fly-on-the-wall style is very effective here. The largely interview-based method that has defined most previous documentaries exploring the Parkland shooting forces survivors and family members to relive the horrors they experienced on that fateful day, whereas Snyder allows them to tell their story more organically in a way they would have regardless of whether or not the camera was there.
Us Kids is arguably the most empathetic documentary on Parkland yet. Featuring lesser-known yet still compelling perspectives, Kim Snyder does an excellent job of perpetuating the conversation about gun violence.
Us Kids streams exclusively on Alamo on Demand beginning October 30 here.