‘After Parkland’: a Numbing, Necessary Return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

Filmmakers Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi take on the incredibly painful and horrifying task of detailing the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting that killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. The only word to describe a film like this – other than numbing – is necessary. (4.5/5)

Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

“Before the shooting, I had a great life. I was able to smile. I’m not able to smile anymore.” – Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow Pollack (October 5, 1999 – February 14, 2018)

I wish this documentary did not exist. Or rather, I wish it didn’t have to exist. Chronicling the aftermath of a mass shooting, After Parkland gives voice to the victims who weren’t able to escape Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the ones who can’t escape the trauma. 

Using actual footage from the horrifying Valentine’s Day 2018, the documentary takes us back into the classrooms where students recorded the sounds of gunfire; bullets that claimed the lives of 17 people: 14 students, a geography teacher, a football coach, and an athletic director. 

Lefferman and Taguchi interview moms and dads, boyfriends and girlfriends, family and friends to tell the individual stories of their lost loved ones. The mother of the late Joaquin Oliver, allows the camera into her 17-year-old’s unchanged bedroom, a now makeshift shrine, which remains as it was with all of his belongings, trophies and messages from his funeral.

Pollack, in memory of his daughter Meadow, remains steadfast in mission to make schools safe – not by banning assault-style rifles, but by creating a bill that raises the minimum age to buy all guns to 21 and establishes a three-day waiting period for most firearm purchases. Thankfully, that bill is now a law: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act. 

Many others are featured here, including David Hogg, a former senior at Stoneman Douglass, who gripped the nation as one of the faces of the tragedy by local and national news stations. Returning to school a mere two weeks after the tragedy, Hogg described it as, “Imagine getting in a plane crash, surviving, and getting on the same plane every day where the one issue that caused it isn’t fixed.” The film follows him and other students the morning of their return to school, one where the student body organized a 17-minute walk out to honored the victims; one minute for each person. 

It’s harrowing and sobering and all the synonyms that have become commonplace with mass shootings: thoughts, prayers, change, assault weapons, Washington. With a documentary like this, however, with a focus on the individuals affected, the future is a hopeful and protected one.

In memory of: 

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Scott Beigel, 35, Martin Duque, 14, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Aaron Feis, 37, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Chris Hixon, 49, Luke Hoyer, 15, Cara Loughran, 14, Gina Montalto, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alex Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16, Peter Wang, 15

© Brigid K. Presecky (11/29/19) FF2 Media

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Brigid Presecky began her career in journalism at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. In 2008, she joined FF2 Media as a part-time film critic and multimedia editor. Receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Bradley University, she moved to Los Angeles where she worked in development, production and publicity for Berlanti Productions, Entertainment Tonight and Warner Bros. Studios, respectively. Returning to her journalistic roots in Chicago, she is now a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and certified Rotten Tomatoes Film Critic.
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