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  • Newtown received a standing ovation at its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. It touches quite a few nerves in a state that it caught up in a highly divisive debate over its gun laws. Even though everyone walking into the theater saw the news coverage of December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and knows exactly what happened, the film is hypnotic, powerful and emotionally overwhelming. It is mostly presented through interviews with family members, teachers, a priest, and first responders. They all tell the tale of the tragedy that scarred their small idyllic Connecticut town. The film focuses on three families that were willing to open up and tell some of the stories of the deaths of their children and how those deaths tore their lives apart. The small details and family photos are perhaps the most devastating. The film is done with great care, skill and humanity. The killer's name is never verbalized (and only briefly displayed in some documents on the screen) and his story is not really explored. There is clearly a political agenda at work and film is clearly advocating for more gun control, but that is secondary to presenting a human portrait of the young lives were tragically cut short. Sandy Hook has become the emotional touchstone of the gun debate, because the children were so young and so innocent. The families seem to be resilient and willing to carry on and fight for better laws to save other children from meeting the same tragic fate. The film is haunting and left much of the audience trying to hold back tears. For those who are willing to ride this emotional roller-coaster, Newtown is highly recommended.
  • Newtown is a riveting new documentary detailing the trauma and tribulations of families and community members dealing with emotions and life after the massacre of 20 children ages 6-7 years old and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by 20 year-old Adam Lanza. Lanza had murdered his own mother before driving to Sandy Hook and opening fire with an XM-15 military style M4 carbine rifle. Lanza fired 154 rounds with multiple magazine changes from high capacity 30-round magazines to 15-round magazines. The rounds reverberated over the school's PA system.

    Newtown was directed by Kim A. Snyder. Snyder is a New York based filmmaker known for I Remember Me, One Bridge To The Next and Welcome To Shelbyville.

    The film opens in a slow-motion sequence of a parade with children in cheer leading uniforms riding in convertibles in what could be any middle-lass suburb and provides a rather visceral idyllic sentiment of a happy childhood. In a rather seamless fashion, the film cuts to live footage from what appears to be a police vehicle's on-board camera while a voice over from a 911 call is heard. Immediately, the mood of the film changes. Something has happened. Black and white aerial footage of the school and surrounding area, including a nearby evacuation location, a volunteer fire fighting house culminating in live news coverage of the massacre is shown as details are slowly revealed.

    Snyder effectively incorporates the interview into her narrative throughout weaving testimonies into the film's narrative interspersed with sweeping scenes of the natural beauty of the area. The Sandy Hook School Nurse, Sally Cox, described her feelings hearing the shots being fired wondering when they would stop. A Connecticut State Trooper refused to discuss the graphic details of what he saw at the crime scene focusing on the emotional impact instead. And this theme drives the film.

    Snyder artfully uses text overlays with Newtown neighbors communicating with each other during the immediate aftermath. The first text reveals safety for one child and then the news of a child, Daniel Barden, who died. An emotional medium close up framed interview of Daniel's father, Mark, as he laments not knowing his son's final moments takes the film's mood to a deeper level. Additional interviews of the Barden's close neighbor recounting the Friday "after school pizza parties" and the bonding between the two families keep the emotional roller coaster going. An adept point-of-view tracking shot of the community's pastor as he solemnly makes his way to the church altar to prepare for the upcoming funeral masses opens up a massive void that no one has wanted to talk about. The feeling there is no way to prevent this from happening again surfaces.

    Snyder reaches back and adds more archival footage of Congressional hearings with testimony from Newtown's Dr. William Begg, Emergency Room Services Director. Dr. Begg testifies to the impact assault bullets have on little bodies and the possibility of survival when the bodies have been riddled with anywhere from three to eleven assault rounds. Another clip shows President of the United States, Barack Obama, praising the Connecticut's sweeping new gun law legislation as he urges Congress to follow suit.

    "The number 12/14 has become a defining moment for many members of the community," reveals a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher. Here Snyder inserts stunning cinematography starting with a ray of light shimmering through autumnal leaves. Quickly apples are revealed and soon a hand and footage of a family apple-picking event foreshadow the Barden's decision to conceive another child.

    As time passes questions are being asked on how can the community honor these children and what can be done to help as the community searches for answers. The grieving process has begun following the massive trauma and shock they have experienced.

    As the film moves toward its conclusion, a community event including a challenging obstacle course draws the survivors together as they attempt to overcome the difficulties imposed. As participants struggle to make the finishing line cheers and support are given. Another powerful metaphor Snyder wields with grace and finesse. And again, she reaches back into her tool kit and uses text overlays as the community shares their grief online as they move forward after 12/14/12.

    Admittedly, Newtown is an emotionally draining film. Snyder's direction slowly draws out the emotional strings while transfusing hope and a call to action of "we are all in this together." Indeed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Charlton Heston, the Oscar winning actor and one time President of the powerful lobby group the National Rife Association, once declared: "From my cold dead hands." And while America awaits sensible legislation and gun control laws, more innocent victims are lost in senseless massacres from people who probably should not have had access to a lethal weapon in the fits place. In his gun control documentary Bowling For Columbine Michael Moore used humour as a weapon and as a powerful tool in his cry for tighter laws on gun ownership. There is precious little humour to be found in this raw and emotional documentary from director Kim A Snyder that looks at the aftermath of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a perfect and safe little town in rural Connecticut. On the morning of December 14, gunman Adam Lanza shot his own mother and then drove to the nearby school where he opened fire, killing 20 young children and six adults before turning the gun on himself. Snyder comes into a community still raw with emotion, grief and a palpable sense of anger at yet another senseless slaughter of the innocent. Snyder (who worked as an assistant producer with Jodie Foster on the comedy Home For The Holidays) incorporates lots of newsreel footage here along with some intimate interviews with first responders, the local priest, and William Begg, the ER doctor who talks about the traumatic impact of the bullets on the young bodies. Snyder also connects with three families affected by the tragedy - the Bardens, the Hockleys and the Wheelers - who all lost a child in the massacre, and they talk openly and honestly about how they are trying to move on from the loss. Snyder obviously has an agenda here as she tries to put the focus firmly on the emotional and controversial issue of gun control and the inadequacy of legislators to address the problem. There are some gut wrenching moments throughout, but she handles this material with great sensitivity and understanding. This is a study of a community torn apart by tragedy and attempting to rebuild their lives and find some positives. If this incident doesn't change America's attitude towards tighter gun laws then possible nothing ever will. And despite President Obama's attempts to change the laws yet again the US Senate backed away from tighter gun laws.
  • meeza22 May 2017
    Director Kim Snyder's documentary "Newtown" is a gripping film about the aftermath of the largest mass school shooting in U.S. history which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conneticut on December 14, 2012. The documentary follows three Newtown families who lost their sons in the tragedy, and another family who had a son survive the tragedy but still left them with much grief. Snyder does an admirable job in highlighting the documentary around how life has immensely altered for these families, and she cerebrally avoids the the pitfalls of making it into a sensational, political agenda documentary; even though "gun control" policy has to be a requisite to be part of the feature. This is not for the weak hearted; as you can imagine, there are definitely moments of profound sorrow in featuring the families discussing how their sons were like. No one will ever forget the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, and this documentary is just a subtle reminder, yet effective one, how this can never be put aside in our memory. **** Good
  • Once it's okay to kill babies there will never be changes with who can have a gun in the US. What thoughtful and brave parents, how devastating. Newtown seems like the perfect community which makes for a stark contrast with the horror. The community seems to be healing and doing their best.

    Well worth the watch just make sure you have tissue handy!
  • kosmasp19 August 2019
    Is something everyone with just the slightest slice of empathy and emotion must have after watching this. And yet time and time again, mass shootings happen in America and nothing is really been done to stop them. Depending on your stance on certain things, you may already accuse me of talking about a ban for all weapons. Or you may think I want everyone to have guns, or that there have been some changes law-wise.

    The latter is only slightly true, especially when the current administration negated some of it (concerning the mentally challenged and them being able to purchase weapons). It is quite a powerful documentary with a lot of emotions and a lot to swallow. There are things that should never have happened ... and yet here we are ... again and again and again (unfortunately)
  • My heart bleeds for the victims and their families. But this slow, meandering and poorly produced film does not help.
  • pzlomke2 March 2020
    If you can get past Gene Rosen's blathering in the very first part of this documentary, I'll give you credit. This man is the worst actor ever and changes his story (or elaborates on it) every time I've seen him interviewed. Oh, and by the way, his story doesn't hold up. Check out the helicopter sequence of any video showing people around the school and you'll see good ol' Gene, wandering around like he's practicing his lines. He said in his interview that he was in his house. Busted, Gene!