Life ‘After Parkland’

Documentary provides insight into life after tragedy for shooting survivors.

David Hogg in the movie "After Parkland."

In the wake of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School In Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, friends, family, and survivors try to cope with immense loss while simultaneously keeping their loved ones’ memories alive. “After Parkland,” created by documentarians Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi, takes a raw emotional look at several survivors: David Hogg, Victoria Gonzalez, Sam Zeiff, Brooke Harrison, Dillon McCooty, and Manuel Oliver.

The film will be screened at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark on Monday, July 22, at 8 pm, part of the summer schedule at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. Following the showing, film subjects Lauren Hogg and Harrison will lead a discussion alongside directors Lefferman and Taguchi.

At the film’s outset, about 10 minutes of chilling cell phone recordings of gunshots, screams, and panicked whispering preface the 90-minute story. The rest of the film is dedicated to the aftermath of the shooting — rebuilding, coming together, and ultimately persevering despite such irrevocable catastrophe.

The student survivors of the major tragedy have been involved in a high-profile campaign advocating for gun safety, improved, comprehensive screening processes, and preventive measures for school shootings.

At times, the film simply follows the survivors around in their day-to-day lives, cataloguing how they cope with devastating grief and irreparable loss. Other times, Hogg and Gonzalez speak directly to the camera.

In one scene, Hogg, his sister, and his mother are driving back to school just two weeks after the shooting. Hogg is the leader of the Never Again Campaign against gun violence, and during the 2018 elections was on a mission to encourage young people to vote.

Hogg and other survivors organized the national movement the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., where accounts of as many as 2 million people showed up in support of stricter gun regulations and getting guns out of schools.

The group also demanded legislative action be taken to prevent similar events from happening in the future. 

The film also takes a long look at the family and friends of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the shooting. Oliver’s father, best friend, and girlfriend all try to keep his memory alive by honoring him in every way they can.

In one scene, Oliver’s lifelong friend Dillon McCooty plays in a basketball game while wearing Oliver’s jersey. Oliver’s father, Manuel, continues to coach the basketball team to commemorate his son. Oliver’s girlfriend, Victoria Gonzalez, cheers fervently as if Oliver’s sneakers were still squeaking on the gym floor. One sentiment conveyed by this film is the fact that sometimes, the survivors live in denial in order to live at all. 

“I’m just really good at putting up a front,” Gonzalez says at the basketball game. 

Manuel and others affected by the tragedy also show that the only way to move on from a horrific event is to fight for what you believe in. 

After the shooting, Manuel and his wife started a nonprofit called Change the Ref, to help this generation fight against gun crimes and violence. 

With the film, Lefferman and Taguci take a no-frills approach at conveying the sadness and devastation of many at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But in some scenes, a sense of hope glimmers through the darkness, and the memories of those lost seem palpable.

“After Parkland” shows how love and ambition are powerful tools to combat feelings of grief and helplessness. Through unspeakable tragedy, the survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School persevere, and in doing so secure a better, safer future for the country.


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