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Guest Post: Advocating Through Film by Maria Cuomo Cole

Guest Post: Advocating Through Film by Maria Cuomo Cole

As an advocate, I have always believed that the most effective change rises from constituents and communities. In the same way, it is the personal stories of challenge and triumph that serves as the true voice of most social issues.

When I became involved with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, I sought to put a human face on the complex debate on gun laws by filming the victims and survivors of gun violence on film. How better to convey the price of inadequate legislation than by a mother’s heartfelt words about the loss of her son and husband to an illegal handgun shooting or a survivor of gun violence describing the frustration of living without the use of their legs. These real messages touch a responsive chord with people from both sides of the issue. Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Film Festival (where I am this week) says it best, “cinema has shown over and over that, as human beings, we share values beyond any border, real or imagined.”

I felt compelled to film Colin Goddard’s chilling account of the terror he and his classmates endured in their Virginia Tech classroom during the 11 minutes of shooting that would take 32 lives at Virginia Tech. Reading newspaper accounts and watching television news broadcasts about the incident does not communicate the impact of a survivor’s personal story. Regardless of the viewer’s politics, Living for 32 succeeds in promoting an emotional and intellectual response to the devastation of gun violence. By allowing Colin to tell his own story in his own words, with no commentary, we allow the audience to shape their own views. While we incorporated news clips of the 2007 Virginia Tech incident, we also felt strongly that we needed to avoid a bias in the presentation of information; working hard to create truthful representation with cinematic quality and dynamic story-telling.

The best reaction that we can receive to our film is courageous dialogue about a sensitive issue. Our hope is that the attention garnered by screening Living for 32 at Sundance this week will continue the conversation about the need for stricter gun laws.

The reality is that Sundance is just the beginning for Living for 32. A national tour of the film is underway in communities and colleges, which will continue through 2012. To date, screenings followed by question and answer sessions have taken place in NY, D.C., CA and NJ – with more screening requests sent to our website daily. On February 9th, we will be very honored to host a screening for students and community residents to commemorate the four-year anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech which is in April.

In the aftermath of the tragedy in Tuscon this conversation has gained additional momentum. We all look forward to continuing to build this advocacy movement through Colin’s brave story and Living for 32.

Remaining Screenings at Sundance




Living for 32 – Trailer from Living for 32 on Vimeo.

Maria Cuomo Cole was inspired to make the documentary Living for 32 after hearing gun violence survivor Colin Goddard share his story of tragedy and fortitude. Throughout her career in the private and nonprofit sectors, Ms. Cuomo Cole has produced and directed films and public service announcements to raise awareness for social issues including homelessness, domestic violence, at-risk youth, and gun violence. She has captured numerous intimate first person stories of hardship and perseverance on film, video, and in print, which have been broadcast and published in a variety of media. Current film projects include documentaries on female veterans and reflections by prominent Americans on their personal mentors.

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You have certainly found the best possible spokesman for the gun control cause, a wounded survivor of a senseless gun slaughter who is himself an enthusiastic gun sportsman. As a veteran medical examiner, who has examined countless gunshot victims, I am amazed at the lack of vocal indignation
from my colleagues. The Virginia medical examiner was silent following this tragedy. Most other medical specialty organizations have expressed support for increased gun controls.

Baldr Odinson

I can’t wait to see this movie and the message it brings. Gun violence is a plague on America, yet even most mass shootings are hardly a wake-up call anymore. How ironic that the most attention-grabbing shooting since Virginia Tech (Tucson) happened just as this movie is at Sundance. Let’s hope that the combination finally wakes up our legislators and pushes the issue to the forefront of the minds of my fellow Americans. We at Ceasefire Oregon work to reduce gun violence, and can’t wait to get the film a showing here in Eugene, Oregon.


Maria and Colin are both inspiring individuals! It takes the courage of a few to inspire change in the masses. I wish this film the best of luck at Sundance and the upcoming tour! You are sharing a very worthwhile message – thank you for all that you have done and continue to do!

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