Tribeca Film Festival: After Parkland (2018) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Since After Parkland (2018) is a documentary in the weeks and months following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018 – where 17 people were murdered – it is of course powerful. I am a high school teacher and a father of a high school student, and thus my investment in the subject matter is extremely high. However, there is something that feels inherently dirty to take such an event and make it into a documentary. It seems to be done tastefully, but some major people who were speaking out about gun control and violence in schools to the public are not included in parts of the documentary, while others take center stage.

After Parkland is an emotionally stirring documentary

The aspect of the film that feels a little more empathetic deals with Manuel Oliver, who lost his son, Joaquin “Guac”, in the shooting. Manuel’s fight against the lawmakers, his connection with Joaquin’s friends, and the struggle to move on is very captivating, and seems logical. Manuel seems to be doing things for the right reasons. He lost his son, and he doesn’t want anyone else to go through such a loss.

The same goes for Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter, Meadow. He is motivated to change policy, and doesn’t see gun control as the issue to be attacked – but focuses instead on school safety and mental health. Pollack believes he sees a possible solution to this apparent epidemic of school shootings and goes in 100%. His loss is felt in his interviews, and you can tell he isn’t doing any of this for his own success, but instead as a way of grieving. Thus, you totally feel for Pollack, and support his actions.

Rather than pointing specific fingers at the students who take to political activism, I’ll just point out how some of their actions don’t ring as genuine. With the two parents, their motivations for the actions are very clear. They don’t seem interested in how many people are liking their tweets or what others are saying about them or the shooting. Instead, they are concerned with making a change.  A few of the students who take up the fight seem to be doing it for the wrong reasons. It is as if they’ve seen an opportunity to take this tragedy and turn it in their favor to better their own future. That is problematic and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Where this rings most true is the exclusion of Emma Gonzalez from most of the documentary. She gave a rousing speech, which is shown in full during the documentary – but you can watch it here – and it is one of the most emotionally stirring moments in the film. However, she is not seen one other time. She is never interviewed, nor is she followed by the cameras, like several other students. To me, that speaks that Gonzalez may not have wanted to be included in the documentary. While I can only speculate on this idea, it seems that her heart is in the right place, and she isn’t doing any of her speaking for fame.

Final thoughts…

After Parkland will likely become an important historical document, as it does a good job of showing the aftermath of such a tragic event. However, it is hard to know why filmmakers  Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi chose to make it. Was it simply to ensure that future generations would have this film to reference, or was it possibly an easy way to get recognized as people will want to see a documentary about this topic? After Parkland earns the Decent Watch rating.

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