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Us Kids 2020

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle, and Kim A. Snyder
Directed by Kim A. Snyder
Streaming, 86 mins

High School - General Adult
Communication Studies; Political Activism; Psychology; Terrorism

Date Entered: 11/30/2021

Reviewed by Kimberly Poppiti, St. Joseph's College, Patchogue, NY

This feature-length documentary focuses on student activism against gun violence in the wake of the 2018 fatal school shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School. The shooting itself is described, with surviving students recounting aspects of the attack. Scenes from the March for Our Lives, held in Washington, DC (and other areas of the world) on March 24, 2018 and the National School Walkout, held on April 20, 2018, are also included. The (initial) failure of these major events to inspire significant gun control measures or to make a significant impact on the levels of gun violence in the US are also acknowledged and presented as further motivation for increased efforts by the activists. As the movement and support for it grows, additional students join the core team profiled in the film, bringing with them their own experiences with gun violence.

The filmmakers document the work of the student activists mainly through footage of the students as they tour the country, finding common ground with one another and raising awareness about gun violence and the importance of exercising one’s right to vote. The experiences of a small number of students function to represent the larger movement and footage of these young activists at work provides the backbone of the film. This is supplemented by excerpts from interviews and news stories, along with scenes from press conferences and rallies, and various social media posts. Survivors talk not only about their first-hand experiences with gun violence, but also about the direct action they are now taking to prevent others from experiencing the trauma they have been faced with. Well-known politicians, media personalities, and organizations opposing the efforts of the group and the cause of common-sense gun reform are identified and called out by students in the film, who question them about their reasons for refusing to support even the most basic gun safety measures. The targeting of the student activists by counter-protesters at public appearances and online, as well as in counter-campaigns by various media personalities and attacks coming from private citizens, are also documented.

Us Kids includes frank descriptions of fatal gun violence and its aftermath. Survivors describe their first-hand experience with gun violence, as well as their efforts to cope with the trauma resulting from these experiences. Through action and activism, the students seek to heal and to affect change in the world. This film is appropriate viewing for audiences of high school age and up. The gun violence described in the film is tragic, but the overall message of the film is hopeful. It will be worthwhile viewing for general high school and college classrooms, and of specific interest to those in the areas of political activism, communication studies, social movements, psychology, and terrorism.

Best Feature Documentary, Montclair Film Festival; Best Documentary Award, Mountainfilm; Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; Best Documentary Award, Crested Butte Film Festival; Best Feature Documentary and Audience Award, Milwaukee Film Festival; Boulder Film Festival Impact Award, Boulder Film Festival

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.