'After Parkland' Is a Heart-Wrenching Look at Families' & Survivors' Lives in the Wake of the School Shooting

April 26, 2019

On Valentine's Day 2018, a gunman, armed with a legally purchased AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines, opened fire and massacred 17 people and injured 17 others. In the wake of the horrific school shooting, many survivors and families of the victims have spoken out in an effort to educate and make change. Some—like Emma González, Cameron Kasky, and Delaney Tar—have been especially vocal and gotten a great deal of media attention, while others have remained more behind-the-scenes. But in the new ABC Documentaries film After Parkland, Nightline journalists-turned-directors Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi wanted to offer a platform to students and parents who may not have become household names but who were directly impacted by the events of that day and have compelling messages to share in the aftermath.

After Parkland follows senior David Hogg, who recorded his class during the attack and became the face of the Never Again movement; freshman Brooke Harrison, who was in the first classroom under attack; Sam Zeif, a senior who was locked down in the same building, texting with his little brother and unsure if they would ever see each other again; Andrew Pollack, the father of 18-year old Meadow, who was killed after being shot nine times; and the loved ones of 17 year-old Joaquin Oliver, including his father Manuel, girlfriend Victoria Gonzalez, and best friend Dillon McCooty. From the opening scene in which the filmmakers sit down to talk to Pollack, the haunting pain that each one of these individuals faced in the hours, days, weeks, and months following the shooting is downright palpable.

The film, which was shot between February to September 2018—documents everyday moments, like David Hogg eating a muffin or Brooke Harrison getting dressed for school, as well as the most surreal events, like Hogg walking past hordes of police and media as he headed back to class for first time since the shooting, Sam Zeif joining a mother who lost her son in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting at the White House where they made a case for change, Joaquin Oliver's parents grieving their loss after a basketball game Oliver coached.

After Parkland's subjects speak directly to the camera, sharing intimate details of their memories, and the film also features verite footage and personal videos. The combination makes for a deeply powerful, moving, heart-wrenching experience. It also highlights the political debates that rage on following the shooting in a personal way, as we see two fathers who lost their children—Pollack and Oliver—attempting to create change in different ways. The film also addresses other mass shootings in the U.S. since Parkland, like the one that happened at Sante Fe High School in Texas, where 10 people were killed last May, and at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md., where five people lost their lives in June.

But ultimately, it aims to throw the spotlight on the stories of teens who lost their lives and those who are contending with the pain of grieving them every day since February 14, 2018.

Taguchi told The New York Daily News: "There was a lot of noise and a lot of headlines about (the) Never Again (movement) and the kids that were really on the activism trail, but at the same time we were really kind of honored to witness these moments when they were just really making an effort to get up each day and put one foot forward at a time."

But those who are living those moments want audiences to know they shared their lives with the documentarians with hopes of creating universal change. As Manuel Oliver said, “At the end of the documentary, it shows perfectly how this is not over. It’s not only about Joaquin. It’s about 40,000 people that die every year. Do something about it."

After Parkland premieres at Tribeca Film Festival Friday and is currently seeking distribution.