NEW YORK — David Hogg just wants President Donald Trump to stop tweeting.
The 19-year-old activist has been relentlessly attacked by right-wing media and conservative politicians since speaking out about gun reform in February 2018, following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 of his classmates and staff. The online vitriol was so bad in the weeks following that it affected his sleep and appetite, Hogg says in new documentary “After Parkland,” to which his mom responds that he needs to shut down his Twitter and go to bed.
“So does the president,” Hogg deadpans, taking another bite of cereal before he heads off to school.
Parkland survivor David Hogg has become one of the most prominent faces in the gun-control movement. He is featured in new documentary "After Parkland." (Photo: JIM WATSON, AFP/Getty Images)
It’s one of many intimate conversations featured in “After Parkland,” which shows survivors and families of victims in the weeks and months after the tragedy. The documentary follows students as they return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and attempt to rebuild their lives: going to basketball games, prom and counseling, all while forming grassroots efforts to fight gun violence.
The documentary premieres at Tribeca Film Festival Friday and is currently seeking distribution. It is produced by ABC Documentaries and directed by “Nightline” journalists Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi, who spoke to USA TODAY about the film.
Question: What was the impetus for this documentary?
Jake Lefferman: Emily and I have both been on assignments where we have dealt with mass shooting situations, and after each we were left with these questions about what happens after the cameras leave. How does a family get up the next morning? How does a community begin to rebuild? So when we went down to Parkland initially for ABC, we were struck by some of those first conversations with students and families. They were so eloquent and so able to articulate the trauma that they lived through.
Stoneman Douglas student Victoria Gonzalez, whose boyfriend, Joaquin Oliver, was killed in the attack. (Photo: Courtesy of ABC Documentaries)
Q: In your interviews with David Hogg, he discusses the barrage of online harassment he’s received since speaking out. Based on your time together, what kind of toll has all this negative attention taken on him?
Lefferman: Like a lot of the students, David felt compelled to speak out initially and was rightly angry about the way that some people perceived him or the fact that this wasn’t getting the attention they felt it deserved. What we saw was incredible growth, and him starting to understand the layers of gun violence and policy, and really becoming a community activist.
David was not personally in the building that the shooting took place, so I think when some people were too traumatized to speak, he was able to speak for them. He talks about how his sister lost four of her friends, and not being able to do anything to get them back, he needed to do something.
Q: Aside from her speech at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. Emma Gonzalez does not appear in the film. Did you ever approach her about it?
Emily Taguchi: That was a deliberate decision we made. Emma, Cameron Kasky, Delaney Tarr – all those students were getting a lot of media attention and leading the headlines, which is a testament to their efforts. But at the same time, we really wanted to fan out and meet people in the community who were much more directly impacted by what happened and see what their journeys would be like.
Andrew Pollack has fought for school safety since his daughter, Meadow, was murdered in the Parkland shooting. (Photo: Courtesy of ABC Documentaries)
Q: What do you hope viewers will take away from watching this?
Taguchi: I hope our film is able to show the human, less-spoken side of the gun violence issue. For every victim that loses his or her life, there are all these ripple effects on families that have to find meaning in what happened.
Lefferman: We didn’t set out to make an advocacy film or a political film. What we hope to highlight is this universal pain that all these families are going through. You’ll notice that the two fathers we focus on have very different political views and different opinions on how to address gun reform, but the shared pain they’re going through is something we hope anyone on any side of the political spectrum will be able to appreciate.
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