HOW does a community recover from the devastation of a school shooting? It is a painful question we often lose sight of in the proceeding months and years of such tragedies, especially as we are swept away by fast-moving news cycles and left disappointed by political inaction.
Kim A. Snyder’s unflinching and emotionally testing documentary, Newton, brings us into the homes of families affected by the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting on December 14, 2012. Here, as we are told, life is separated by events that happened before December 14 and events that come after. The murder of 20 children and 6 educators on that day has altered the essence of the community and left an irreparable scar that refuses to heal.
Snyder’s film grants remarkable access into the lives and stories of those who live in Newtown. Family photos and videos are coupled with stirringly open and mournful accounts – a teary combination that will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the viewer. This is a harrowing look at how the ‘good life’ of a family-oriented small-town can be turned into a waking nightmare by senseless violence.
Snyder handles the subject with care and sensitivity, refusing to stray too far into the political side of the gun control debate. Instead she allows the victims’ stories to be told and, with regular cuts to black, gives us space to reflect upon them.
The refusal to reference the shooter by name is another sensible touch. It starves such an despicable person of attention and renders him down to a nameless killer identified only by motives. This is a story about remembering those whose lives were taken and the holes they left, not about giving anyone notoriety.
Newtown is a must-see film that speaks to the anguish wrought by gun violence while also acting as a reminder of human resilience in the face of deep wounds. This is a community that will forever carry the burden of its painful past to remember those loved ones who were cruelly taken. Maybe, just maybe, it will also help inspire meaningful change.
This was review 27/30 in April’s Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.