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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

2016 Sundance Film Festival
Newtown  (2016)
2½ Stars
Directed by Kim A. Snyder.
2016 – 85 minutes
Not Rated
Reviewed at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival by Dustin Putman for, January 25, 2016.
"Newtown" tackles a tough, excruciating topic—the December 14, 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a tragedy which claimed the lives of 20 first-grade students and six educators—but finds a way to do so without becoming overly morose or distasteful. Documentary filmmaker Kim A. Snyder is aware of the dangers of exploitation, following three sets of parents—the Bardens, the Wheelers and the Hockleys—still grappling with the cruel, untimely losses of their children. There are brief snippets of 911 audio recordings and police dash cam footage from the day in question, as well as a non-graphic crime-scene walkthrough of 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza's home, but new details about the events on December 14 are negligible at best.

Instead, Snyder focuses on the effects this unthinkable mass murder has on the community and, more specifically, those who knew the victims or were in the school on that terrifying morning. As one Sandy Hook staff member states, her existence has forever been split into two categories: life before 12/14, and after 12/14. It would be impossible for "Newtown" not to be a touching experience, but it also barely skims the surface; a Gun Violence Prevention Hearing that grieving father David Wheeler speaks at comes and goes too quickly, while Lanza is only briefly discussed, and in little to no detail. There is a harder-hitting, fuller-scoped picture to be made delving from all sides into the tragedy which befell Newtown. As a filmic journal of a select few experiences, however, "Newtown" has been approached with sensitivity and respect for the courageous participating subjects.
© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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