Today’s Sundance doc profiles open with the sixteenth and final film in the 2013 US Documentary Competition: VALENTINE ROAD, Marta Cunningham’s insightful investigation into a fatal school shooting.
Sundance Program Description:
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during first period. When Larry died two days later, his murder shocked the nation. Was this a hate crime, one perpetrated by a budding neo-Nazi whose masculinity was threatened by an effeminate gay kid who may have had a crush on him? Or was there even more to it?
Looking beyond all the copious news coverage of this tragic event, VALENTINE ROAD tells the story of two victims: the deceased and the murderer. With keen insight, the film connects the human wreckage of Larry’s and Brandon’s troubled lives—both physically abused, both from broken homes, and both searching for a sense of belonging. Filmmaker Marta Cunningham puts a human face on a critical issue challenging communities everywhere. Namely, how do we help kids like Brandon and Larry before tragedy happens? Haunting, infuriating, and powerful, VALENTINE ROAD shakes us to our core as it calls to question our very notion of justice.
Though this film marks her directorial debut, Cunningham has a background in performance, with acting credits in several TV series and feature films. Joining her as producers are Sundance producer alum Eddie Schmidt (TROUBADOURS (2011), THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (2006), TWIST OF FAITH (2005), CHAIN CAMERA (2001)); and longtime TV producer Sasha Alpert of unscripted programming producing powerhouse Bunim-Murray (PROJECT RUNWAY, THE REAL WORLD, BAD GIRLS CLUB). Alpert’s colleagues Jonathan Murray and Gil Goldschein, respectively the founder/CEO and president of Bunim-Murray, serve as executive producers.
Why You Should Watch:
School shootings remain tragically all too topical, as do incidents of crime and violence against LGBT individuals, making Cunningham’s doc essential viewing. Exploring the lives of both McInerney and his victim, as well as the sometimes poignant, sometimes enraging perspectives of friends and teachers, the film eschews black and white moralizing to offer a more nuanced, and more challenging, take on the deadly incident – one that is sure to provoke impassioned and thoughtful dialogue, and, perhaps, to help prevent similar fates from befalling other kids.
To keep updated on the doc, check out its website and Facebook page. For Cunningham’s thoughts on the film, check out her Meet the Artists profile for Sundance and her Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.