The documentary “13 Families: Life After Columbine” releases on DVD August 7, via Osiris Entertainment. For the first time, family members of the Columbine victims share their personal stories of the 1999 mass school shooting and its aftermath.
The Denver Post’s review:
“In many ways the doc is a rebuff to the media blitz. This movie doesn’t spend time asking ‘Why?’ — a question that led to a glut of stories, some necessary, others sensational, and theories about killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Instead, with the families’ help, the movie poses ‘Hows?’… Five years in the making, ’13 Families’ shows that the grieving do emerge from anguish — choosing different paths, perhaps. While all 13 families agreed to participate in the documentary in some fashion, not all wanted to be on camera. All, however, have bestowed audiences with a telling mosaic of loss, memory and, if not moving on, moving forward ever mindful of what was lost. And taken.”
The Columbine shootings continue to elicit interest among filmmakers, most recently in 2011 with Lynne Ramsay’s stylish, unapologetic “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” about a reluctant mother (Tilda Swinton) dealing with her bad seed son (Ezra Miller) who ends up causing murderous mayhem at his high school. Swinton got a Golden Globe nomination for her committed turn as Eva Khatchadourian, but didn’t pick up enough steam for an Oscar campaign. The film received a modest theatrical release from Oscilloscope and 68% on Metacritic, proving both the strength and devisiveness of Ramsay’s film.
The early 2000s saw two successful films inspired by the Columbine shootings. Gus Van Sant’s poetic “Elephant” (2003, which he recently discussed at the Palm Springs Shortfest), based in part on the events at Columbine, follows numerous characters in a high school throughout the day of a fateful shooting spree. The film does not offer an explanation for the shooting, but rather focuses on the character-driven events. Ignored by major American awards, the film impressed overseas, particularly the French festival crowd: “Elephant” won the Palme d’Or, Best Director and Cinema Prize of the French Education System awards at Cannes, and was nominated for a Cesar for Best Foreign Film.
In 2002, Michael Moore’s incendiary “Bowling for Columbine” was a major talking point for its ballsy tackling of the subject. Moore’s unweildy thesis extended from his hometown of Flint, Michigan, to Jefferson County, Colorado, to K-Mart. Particularly controversial was Moore’s staging of a confrontation between an irreparably wounded Columbine victim and K-Mart representatives, addressing the bullets, sold by K-Mart, which were used in the shooting. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary; Moore declared in his acceptance speech: “Shame on you, Mr. Bush!” You can watch his speech and trailers for the films below: