Parkland Rising movie review & film summary (2020)
But “Parkland Rising” isn’t about the deadly shooting, so much as the activism that arose from it. Since that day, Parkland survivors like David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, along with the parents of Joaquin Oliver and a host of others, have campaigned across the country for stricter gun laws. Sirulnick’s “Parkland Rising” isn’t the first documentary to recount the Parkland tragedy—Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman did so too with “After Parkland,” covering many of the same beats. But through its images of peaceful protests and demonstrations from the era, Sirulnick’s narrow but inspiring film finds deeper relevance in the face of the current protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder.
Unfortunately, many of the familiar names associated with Parkland—mainly Emma Gonzalez, though she does appear heavily in protest footage—did not provide interviews to Sirulnick, which causes “Parkland Rising” to only scratch the surface of the varied struggles and post-event memorials. With this film being Sirulnick’s second feature-length documentary, one gets the sense that a more experienced director would have better captured the complexities of other survivors. Instead, the documentary frames the resulting activism through the still-compelling experiences of Hogg and Joaquin Oliver’s parents Manuel and Patricia. The two sides, along with other activists, band together for peaceful campaigns for stricter gun laws, protests like “March for Our Lives”—which drew celebrities like will.i.am and Jennifer Hudson—and “Die-Ins,” where Hogg and others laid on the floor of Publix with flowers after the grocery chain donated to pro-NRA candidate Adam Putnam. The timeline of these demonstrations is often difficult to follow in the film, as dates are flagged but their proximity to the activists’ major protests is often left unclear.
Throughout the activists’ political actions, Sirulnick records their respective struggles in the face of opposition. For instance, Hogg and Gonzalez experienced a barrage of hateful tweets and threats, some of which are included here. And while Sirulnick blurs many of the menacing handles that produced such bile, she left Frank Stallone calling Hogg a “pussy” unredacted. The teens, in an effort to spur grassroots support, also try to make in-roads with Second Amendment supporters through sobering face-to-face conversations. When pro-NRA protesters bring AR-15s—the same gun used by Cruz—into the Parkland demonstrations, Sirulnick makes their stomach churning tone-deafness palpable by juxtaposing shots of uneasy and angered demonstrators. In their unwavering maturity, the teens balance appearances on “Anderson Cooper” and other late-night shows, leaving one not just amazed at their awareness, but mournful for their now-lost adolescence.