New York Times interview for “Valentine Road”:
“Gun” is a short film about a man who buys a handgun for protection and becomes obsessed with the newfound sense of power it gives him. “Valentine Road,” a documentary, looks at a school shooting in California. “Blue Caprice” was inspired by the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks.
Gun Violence Is a Topic of Discussion at Sundance
BY BROOKS BARNES JANUARY 17, 2013 1:15 PM January 17, 2013 1:15 pm
PARK CITY, Utah — “Gun” is a short film about a man who buys a handgun for protection and becomes obsessed with the newfound sense of power it gives him. “Valentine Road,” a documentary, looks at a school shooting in California. “Blue Caprice” was inspired by the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks.
The topic of gun violence, now being intensely discussed across the country, is going to burn particularly hot at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“Valentine Road,” directed by Marta Cunningham and set to have its premiere here on Saturday, deals most squarely with the issue. The film recounts the 2008 killing in Oxnard, Calif., of Larry King, an eighth grader. A fellow student, Brandon McInerney, shot him at point-blank range in a classroom.
While “Valentine Road” would seem to have little to do with the recent Connecticut elementary school massacre — Larry was killed because Brandon considered him to be too openly gay — there are similarities. Like Adam Lanza, the Newtown, Conn., gunman, Brandon had access to guns at home. “The shootings also both unfolded in places where we expect, above all, that children will be safe,” said Eddie Schmidt, a producer of “Valentine Road” and other well-known documentaries like “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.”
Mr. Schmidt himself has ties to Newtown: he grew up there, and his sister attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, although he was reluctant to talk about that in an interview. “I don’t want it to seem as if there is any opportunism on my part to align the two,” he said in a phone interview. When pressed, he said the “connection underscores the fact that powerful killing machines are far too available in everyday American life.”
“Valentine Road” is likely to make Sundance viewers — a highly liberal audience — steam with anger. Ms. Cunningham works hard to show Brandon’s side of the story, and many people in Oxnard, including jury members in the eventual trial (three of whom talk on camera in the film) openly support the killer’s reasoning; Larry was asking for it by acting like a girl. (Brandon was sentenced in 2011 to 21 years in prison after reaching a plea agreement).
“I became someone these people could air their anger towards,” Ms. Cunningham said by phone. “The only way I was going to get to the truth of this story was to stay neutral. Was I shocked by their level of ignorance? I have to say, no, not really.”
She added: “We have to understand all sides of these horrible events if we are going to stop them. We can’t change our society unless we understand all the complexity, all the gray.”