After twelve years of investigations, exposés, books, videos and Michael-Moore-sized pontifications, what more is there to say about the 1999 Columbine shootings? Plenty, according to the makers of Thirteen Families, a new documentary set to premiere in Denver on April 18, which focuses on the victims' families and their struggles to cope with their devastating loss.
Sounds grim, yes, but reports from early screenings of the film describe it as a meticulous group character study, emotionally powerful and even inspirational in its handling of what may seem in these parts an all-too-familiar story.
Actually, substantial parts of the families' journeys haven't been told before. As I discovered quickly a decade ago in reporting on the aftermath of Columbine, the families of the murder victims are far from a homogenous group, and their response to the grief thrust upon them varied widely. A few soon became nationally known for the causes they adopted, from gun control (Tom Mauser) to speaking out about compassion and forgiveness (Darrell Scott) to challenging the official version of the shootings and the police response to the evolving crisis (Brian Rohrbough). But there were many other parents who shunned the cameras and simply wanted to be left alone.
With the passage of time, producers Nicole Corbin, Mark Katchur and Steve LuKanic have managed to obtain the cooperation from the majority of the family members most directly involved. This is their set of stories. For once the teenaged killers aren't in the spotlight, and the voices of people learning to conquer anger and heal (but not, in many cases, to "forgive" or "find closure") can finally be heard. Yet the grief never goes away. It's a big deal, made bigger by the time frame involved. Early media coverage seemed to suggest that everybody could "move on" from such a horrific event by the first anniversary, and it's never that simple.
The film will debut as part of the Denver Film Society's DocNight Series and then begin a limited engagement at the Elvis Cinemas, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Columbine Memorial Fund.
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Here's the film's trailer:
More from our News archive: "Columbine effect 12 years later: Are schools and cops going too far in prosecuting juveniles?"