‘After Parkland’ follows the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting and their families and documents the one-year aftermath of the horrific tragedy.
It seems like every time there is a mass shooting in America the news media and social media spend days grieving, wishing condolences, praying, and debating how this tragedy occurred and what can be done to stop it from happening again—then everyone forgets and resumes their daily lives like nothing happened. For the public, mass shootings are something they can move on from after a few days. After Parkland shows how the victims of gun violence are left reeling from violent trauma for the rest of their lives. For them, nothing will ever be the same.
The documentary begins with Andrew Pollack speaking about his daughter Meadow, who he tragically lost in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school. He plays a song to the interviewers, “This is a song that I use to play for my kid. I use to sing that to my kid all the time.” You Are My Sunshine gently and warmly begins to play as the screen fades to black. But that sound of beautiful music soon transitions into sounds of pure terror as you hear the violent and horrifying audio of that fateful day. You hear the students’ muffled crying as they desperately attempt to hide from the shooter. Soon after, you hear their ear-splitting screams as the sounds of repeated and unrelenting gunshots violently claim the lives of 14 innocent children and 3 teachers and coaches.
After Parkland is about what happens next. What do you do when your entire world is ripped apart and those you love most are violently taken away from you forever? After Parkland follows some of the students and parents of Stoneman Douglas High School as they all redefine their purpose in life and find the resilience to carry on.
The public is very familiar with certain students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have now become well-known activists such as Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, and Delaney Tarr. But After Parkland takes a closer and more intimate look at lesser known students and parents affected such as Manuel Oliver, Victoria Gonzalez, Dillon McCooty—the father, girlfriend, and best friend of slain Parkland student, Joaquin Oliver. The documentary also follows David Hogg, who is well known in the media as an activist but has been the victim of online harassment and character assassinations. Other students include Brooke Harrison who witnessed her classmates being murdered, and Sam Zief, who lost a friend during the shooting.
All of the survivors and their families find purpose by devoting their lives to activism as a way to keep alive the memory of those they lost and to make sure their loved ones’ death was not in vain. Manuel Oliver founded a non-profit organization, Change the Ref, that uses art as a creative non-violent form of communication and activism to empower the youth to hold lawmakers accountable for gun safety laws. David Hogg became one of the founding members of the Never Again Campaign that advocates for gun control legislation for all communities impacted by gun violence. Andrew Pollack became a school safety activist and founded Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety (CLASS.)
However, the most moving part of After Parkland isn’t watching these kids and parents become activists and community leaders. The most moving part is watching these students continuing their lives as normal kids by going to prom, winning basketball tournaments, graduating, and going to college. After Parkland shows us that life carries on and can still be beautiful under the most tragic circumstances.
Production company: ABC Documentaries
Directors/screenwriters: Emily Taguchi, Jake Lefferman
Producers: Emily Taguchi, Jake Lefferman, Jeanmarie Condon, Steven Baker
Director of Photography: Jake Lefferman
Editors: Brendan Cusack, Karl Dawson
The film screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.