GPFF exposes pain and heartbreak around world

Newtown

Newtown was an extremely emotional film that left viewers in tears, with a rawness in their hearts for a tragedy that occurred more than three and a half years ago. It was a remarkable documentary that tracked the effects of the Sandy Hook shooting on the Newtown, Connecticut community after the murder of twenty children and six elementary school staff members. Newtown captures the pain felt by a small town and the ache that continues in the hearts of the families most tragically affected.

Viewing the film was an especially difficult experience for me because I felt extremely close to the events of the actual day. My hometown, Bethel, CT is the town right next to Newtown. I sat in lockdown with my classmates on that horrible day, and we listened to the rumors circulating about active shooters only a few miles from our school. Ultimately, we learned the story and we heard the death toll. We were numb, and I don’t think that most of us could wrap our minds around the tragedy.

I had never fully comprehended the magnitude of the day, but while re-watching the events unfold during the film, it finally hit me; I realized the magnitude and extent of the awful reality.

The images of quaint, nothing-bad-should-happen-here Newtown and the innocent home videos of the child victims, just days before the tragedy took place, struck chords of emotion in everyone in the room. But they affected me particularly so because the yards and houses shown looked just like they could have been my yard back home.

I recognized the streets that the cameras panned through, and the ice cream sign that one of the little boys was photographed in front of. I recognized the stories and the rumors brought up by the interviewees. Although I can only speak as a member of the extended community of Newtown, I can say that this tragedy hurt everyone, deeply.

Consequently, I highly respect the director, Kim A. Snyder, and her decision to create a film centered on unity and healing rather than political activism. By capturing the community’s shared tragedy, this film can start a more effective type of conversation.

When politics are introduced, conversations tend to become hostile and unproductive because there are so many aspects to debate—topics from mental health, to assault rifles, to the purchasing of guns. Snyder’s focus on community cuts to the importance of the issue. It was a horrific event that united us all, in some way or another. A town minister, a high school student, a first responder, neighbors, a surviving teacher, and most significantly, the families of three of the victims all shared their experiences and emotions throughout the film. Their stories all pointed to similar conclusions: that we must not allow this unthinkable grief to occur to any other families and community.

This film is a grief-inducing experience, but it ignites an important conversation, and I am grateful to have been one of the first viewers before this film begins screening in larger venues. The story needs to be told.

The Deportation of Innocence

Amidst the spectacle of the 2016 presidential election, U.S. immigration policies are more convoluted than ever before, especially considering  the complex cross-border relationship between the United States and Mexico. The Deportation of Innocence showcases the stories of people struggling to remain with their families while they exist in a state of legal and locational limbo.

Drawing upon interviews from immigrant parents and their four U.S.-born children as well as discussions with immigrant advocates and legal practitioners, director Francisco Alarcon questions the expedited removal process of immigrants from mixed-status families in his film, which was featured in the Global Peace Film Festival.

Some films feature one or two poignant scenes. Alcaron’s movie abounds with them. At one moment, we see a man painting children’s faces outside of Yankee stadium; we learn that, in the throes of despair over his circumstances, he contemplated ending his own life. We also hear the account of a mother whose newborn baby was ripped from her arms while Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported her to a detention center in Tijuana.

U.S.-born children who are often forced to abandon their homes in the States to remain with their parents in Mexico, which causes a discordant rift in their lives. When both parents are taken away, these children end up in the foster care system. The ones who have a guardian looking after them in the U.S. face the psychological implications of living without one or more parent for prolonged periods of time.

As one interviewee noted about her father’s separation from her family, “It’s the little things that others take for granted—that’s what I miss the most.” That’s something immigrant children know well, whether they’re U.S. citizens or not: take nothing for granted. The Deportation of Innocence prompts us to do the same while looking at immigration as a human problem that transcends statistics and stereotypes.

Rebels With a Cause

In the early 1950s, a national movement to protect open spaces from urban development spawned in areas across the United States. People began to realize the importance of preserving nature, and Rebels With a Cause follows this journey by focusing on how a group of citizens in Northern California banded together to defend their green spaces by turning them into public parks for the community. The film dives deep into the political complications these people faced when trying to protect the area they love.

You must truly care about green spaces and our environment to fully appreciate the film, because the pace feels as if the audience is trying to pass the citizens’ bill through congress themselves. Rebels With a Cause is less about portraying the beauty that open spaces hold, and more focused on how these inspiring individuals used governmental processes to protect land. If you can handle a bureaucracy-filled documentary, then this film is a fascinating example of how a hard-fought political campaign can preserve something important to everyone. Rebels illustrates how our personal battles are intertwined with political ones.

Rebels With a Cause is a slow-paced but feel-good cinematic experience that conveys a truly American idea: any ordinary individual has the power to change the rules.

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