Film

‘Newtown’ Review: This Doco Will Make You Feel Very Thankful For Australian Gun Laws

This is exactly what the US needs right now.

This is a review from the 2016 Melbourne International Film Festival. Check out more of our coverage here.

It’s easy to feel exhausted by the idea of Newtown before the opening credits even roll. The documentary, directed by Kim A. Snyder, follows the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre — a shooting which resulted in the deaths of 26 people (20 of whom were aged six or seven). It’s not exactly the most appealing way to spend 85 minutes of your time.

It’s to Snyder’s credit then that her film doesn’t put its audience through the wringer. Rather, much like the 2010 drama Rabbit Hole in which Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart deal with the death of their young son, Newtown looks to the future rather than dwelling on the horrors of the past. It attempts to seek a way out for those left behind in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Snyder embedded herself in the community of Newtown shortly after the events of 14 December, 2012, and the subsequent film is an entirely organic one. Speaking at a Q&A after the screening at Melbourne International Film Festival, she said she wanted to let the story find her. In doing so, she found a focus in Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley who both lost children, but who have used the worst day of their lives to become political in the national gun debate. The film follows the pair as they take heartache and attempt to use it for good. It offers a hopeful outcome that would have likely felt impossible in the days and weeks after Sandy Hook.

The most noticeable intentional filmmaking decision that Snyder makes is to not mention the killer’s name, nor show his photo. Events of the day are discussed, but in vague terms — as one police interviewee says, nobody needs those images in their heads.

Newtown certainly isn’t a sensationalist documentary. This isn’t shameless grief-porn ‘crimes that shocked a nation’-style filmmaking. It’s touching and affecting — a telling reminder for Americans of what’s at stake and a reminder to Australians of how lucky we are.

Newtown doesn’t yet have an Australian release date. If it gets picked up locally, it should be in cinemas by the end of the year.

Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.