Can you imagine what the parents of the 20 children who were gunned down in their Sandy Hook school classrooms felt? ‘You need to imagine.’ That’s what ‘Newtown’ documentary director, Kim A. Snyder and producer Maria Cuomo Cole believe. They explain why in EXCLUSIVE interviews.
When director Kim A. Snyder first arrived in Newtown, CT, three weeks after Adam Lanza, 20, massacred 20 children and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012, she had no idea about how she would come to tell the story of the tragedy.
Almost four years later, the film, Newtown, a deeply moving documentary will hit over 500 theaters nationwide Nov. 2, for a special screening and panel discussion — which you can purchase tickets for here.
Kim, with the help of producer Maria Cuomo Cole, has done an extraordinary job of “bearing witness” to the grief and loss of 26 families, as well as the entire community of Newtown, in which no one was left untouched.
“We felt it was a most important story about how gun violence can devastate. We want people to understand the emotional devastation that these families and a community will live with forever,” Cuomo Cole tells HollywoodLife.com. In order to tell that story, director Snyder had to immerse herself in the life of Newtown, gradually meeting with the town’s faith leaders, first responders and ultimately, several of the families of the murdered 6 and 7 year-old children, and their educators who died trying to protect them.
“My first relationship was with Father Bob Weiss, who had buried 8 of those children in one week,” explains Snyder. “I felt enormous empathy for this man, thrust into this unimaginable role.” Even more unimaginable were the roles that the parents of the 20 children who died under fire from Lanza’s assault weapon would be forced to play.
That morning had been like any other weekday morning, as these parents kissed their children and put them on the school bus to head to their grade one classrooms. How could they ever imagine that a maniac would force his way into their children’s school and massacre their babies?
Three of those parents allowed Snyder into their grief-stricken lives in order to share their memories of their children, the horror of their deaths and their commitment to a crusade against gun violence.
“It’s not easy but we must bear witness, not just move on to the next tragedy,” dad David Wheeler told the director, about losing his son Ben, 6. “I would do anything to protect another family and community from going through this.”
Producer Maria Cuomo Cole has long been active in fighting the scourge of gun violence. She serves as a director on the board of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. She hoped that by viewing Newtown, which tells the story of the Sandy Hook massacre and its aftermath, that Second Amendment advocates “can be moved to understand that their rights have to be adapted to consider the right to live safely. We have a right to drive a car but we have regulations on doing that,” she points out. “The gun reform movement is not challenging our Second Amendment rights but adding regulations to ensure gun ownership safely.”
It would be hard to understand how anyone could watch the sensitively-filmed Newtown without thinking about preventing gun violence. Viewers hear the testimony of a first responder who was able to give some comfort to parent Nicole Hockley by telling her that her son Dylan, 6, died with his teacher’s arm around him.
An EMT rcounts that she wrote a letter to the Wheeler family to let them know that she was with their dying son and able to give him comfort in his final minutes of life.
Director Kim Snyder is successful in her and Cuomo Cole’s mission — honoring the Newtown dead and the living, bearing witness to their stories without “rubber necking;” telling the story emotionally, not graphically. “It’s difficult, but I found enormous inspiration from being in this town,” she explains. “The strength that people have in the hardest of circumstances.”
You, too, will find inspiration in this must-see documentary. You can purchase tickets for the Nov. 2 screening at a theater near you at NewtownFilm.com. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
If you can’t make that, PBS will also be screening the film in early 2017.
HollywoodLifers, I highly recommend Newtown, the documentary.