2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: NEWTOWN

newtownNext up in my 2016 Sundance doc profiles: NEWTOWN, Kim A Snyder’s poignant profile of a small town as it reckons with an unparalleled tragedy.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

There are no words of compassion or reassurance that can bring back the 20 children and six educators who lost their lives during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In Kim A Snyder’s searing new film NEWTOWN, we are given exclusive access into the homes of those who lost loved ones. They speak candidly about their grief, anger, and disbelief over what occurred and how nothing has changed in regards to basic gun control reform.

“I still dread that every day I live, I’m one day farther away from my life with Daniel,” says bereaved father Mark Barden. Another parent, as she walks past the school shooter’s old property, reflects, “There are dreams when I’m in the classroom and I’m able to stop him.” Each person, be it a parent, school nurse, or state police officer, tries in their own way to make sense of their loss, as well as confront our nation’s inability to quell gun violence in even the most peaceful of communities. There are no easy answers or fixes in Newtown. The film’s brilliance – and hope – lies in its ability to internalize profound grief and allow it to reverberate within our collective conscience.

Some Background:
Director/Producer: Kim A Snyder
This marks Snyder’s third feature documentary following I REMEMBER ME and WELCOME TO SHELBYVILLE. She associate produced Sundance alum TREVOR (1994), which picked up an honorable mention at the festival, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Short Film, Live Action, and inspired the founding of the non-profit Trevor Project. Snyder has received support from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Labs for her latest film.

Producer: Maria Cuomo Cole
Each of Cuomo Cole’s previous documentaries have screened at Sundance: She executive produced the Oscar-shortlisted THE HUNTING GROUND (2015) and the Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012), and produced the Oscar-shortlisted short film LIVING FOR 32 (2010), which explored US gun laws. She is the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and the wife of designer Kenneth Cole.

Executive Producers: Nick Stuart, CarolAnne Dolan, Regina Scully, Mara Sandler
Artemis Rising’s Regina Kulik Scully has lent her philanthropic support to numerous Sundance films as an executive producer, including fellow 2016 docs MAYA ANGELOU AND STILL I RISE, RESILIENCE, UNDER THE GUN, and THE EAGLE HUNTRESS, 2016 fiction film LOVESONG, and 2015 doc alumni PROPHET’S PREY, DREAMCATCHER, THE HUNTING GROUND, and THE MASK YOU LIVE IN, among several others.

Philanthropist and fine art consultant Mara Sandler has supported films on a range of issues, including gun reform. She sits on the board of directors of the non-profit Facing History and Ourselves, among other organizations.

Stuart and Dolan represent Transform Films, which focuses on the production of social issue documentaries, and have an extensive history in international television production, ranging from A&E, National Geographic, and We to BBC, Al Jazeera, and OWN.

Editor: Gabriel Rhodes
Among Rhodes’ previous credits as editor are several Sundance alums, including feature docs THE TILLMAN STORY (2010) and QUEST FOR HONOR (2009), as well as the short ANNA IS BEING STALKED (2002).

Why You Should Watch:
Snyder’s film is an often raw, brutally candid reckoning with an event that should never have happened, yet which did – and, sadly, continues to repeat across the nation far too often. Wisely constraining her scope to the microcosm of a community – and several families – still dealing with their loss, Snyder avoids sensationalism and polemics to instead force the viewer to remember and to bear witness to the continuing impact the shooting at Sandy Hook had on real people’s lives.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artists

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2016 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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