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Michael David Dunn
An Emotionally Devastating Portrait of the Tragic Sandy Hook Massacre.
Newtown received a standing ovation at its regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. It touches quite a few nerves in a state that it caught up in a highly divisive debate over its gun laws. Even though everyone walking into the theater saw the news coverage of December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and knows exactly what happened, the film is hypnotic, powerful and emotionally overwhelming. It is mostly presented through interviews with family members, teachers, a priest, and first responders. They all tell the tale of the tragedy that scarred their small idyllic Connecticut town. The film focuses on three families that were willing to open up and tell some of the stories of the deaths of their children and how those deaths tore their lives apart. The small details and family photos are perhaps the most devastating. The film is done with great care, skill and humanity. The killer's name is never verbalized (and only briefly displayed in some documents on the screen) and his story is not really explored. There is clearly a political agenda at work and film is clearly advocating for more gun control, but that is secondary to presenting a human portrait of the young lives were tragically cut short. Sandy Hook has become the emotional touchstone of the gun debate, because the children were so young and so innocent. The families seem to be resilient and willing to carry on and fight for better laws to save other children from meeting the same tragic fate. The film is haunting and left much of the audience trying to hold back tears. For those who are willing to ride this emotional roller-coaster, Newtown is highly recommended.
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