Kim Snyder & Mark Barden on ‘Newtown,’ PBS… by Uinterview

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and fatally shot 20 school children and six adult staff members. Nearly four and a half years later, the story of the grieving Newtown community and the trauma that has affected them is being told in the documentary, Newtown, premiering on PBS tonight, Monday, April 3.

The documentary, directed by Kim Snyder, is not focused on the killer but instead on the emotions of a town in grieving and how that grief permeated into the country at large.

“It takes some time to really look at the aftermath for an entire community and the fallout of gun violence so that we don’t become numb,” Snyder told uInterview in an exclusive video interview.

“We can’t afford to become numb,” Snyder continued, “and I do fear that this is what is happening with the numbers in our country.”

Mark Barden, the father of victim Daniel Barden, who was seven years old when he passed away at Sandy Hook Elementary, also spoke with uInterview exclusively about what he hopes the film will accomplish.

“I hope the viewer takes from this the sense of responsibility and the sense of empowerment that what happened in Newtown to my little Daniel, and what continues to happen across our country, is preventable and that there are ways that we could work together to prevent this from happening again,” Barden said.

Additionally, Barden, who has become a powerful voice in the fight against gun violence, hopes to share the love he had, and still has, for his son.

“[Daniel] doesn’t have his life now to share himself with the world so people will have to learn about him this way and I hope that they do that,” said Barden.

But beyond the initial takeaways the film has to offer, both Barden and Snyder hope that viewers take the film as a catalyst for conversations in their own community about how to prevent gun violence, about how to address those who may commit it, and about the grief that inevitably will follow.

Said Barden, “You can have conversations in your community about how you can address this issue and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Snyder agrees. “People can start to make their voices heard and have a conversation and find middle ground about whatever needs to happen to address this, not as a polarized political issue but as a public health issue.”

Newtown airs tonight at 9 p.m. EST on PBS.


Q: Mark, what message do you hope to share with viewers? -

My little boy, Daniel, was seven years old when he was shot to death in his classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012 and that has redefined my life and life of my family from now on. And we hope that this film, people will, first of all, not be afraid to tune in on Monday night and watch Newtown on PBS and learn a little bit about who my Daniel was. He doesn't have his life now to share himself with the world so people will have to learn about him this way and I hope that they do that. And then in a broader sense, the work that Kim has done with this documentary is to really shed light on what happened and allow the viewers a very personal first hand perspective on the impact and the devastation of what happened to us and how we are able to move forward from that and how our community plays such a vital role in that both from feeling the impact and from helping us and supporting us as we move forward from this. And then, again, I hope the viewer takes from this the sense of responsibility and the sense of empowerment that what happened in Newtown to my little Daniel and what continues to happen across our country is preventable and that there are ways that we could work together to prevent this from happening again.

Q: Kim, how did you help survivors to share this difficult story? -

Honesty, it was a slow, long process. We made the film, my producer and I, over three and a half years. A lot of off camera conversations, a lot of time exploring why this story was important to tell in a different long-form way with public television and really, honestly, that there truly was no prescribed agenda. This was simply to, if there was an agenda, it was to bring through this desensitization that we felt was invariably happening in the country. And it takes some time to really look at the aftermath for an entire community and the fallout of gun violence so that we don't become numb. We can't afford to become numb and I do fear that that is what is happening with the numbers in our country.

Q: Kim, what can be done to curb gun violence in this political climate? -

Well, one of the things that we are working to do with the film, because it does lift up voices in any town including law enforcement and teachers and doctors and priests, along with families and we really hope that at a grassroots level, local levels, state by state, people can start to make their voices heard and have a conversation and find middle ground about whatever needs to happen to address this not as a polarized political issue but as a public health issue. So we have hope in that and of course I do advocate for policy changes and let people's voices be heard. This is about the safety of our children and all of those around us.

Q: Mark, what do you hope people remember about Daniel and Newtown? -

Well, there are some glimpses of Daniel in his life in the video, in the film, which is both treasure and very, very difficult for me to watch. But I hope they connect with my little Daniel for the person that he was and take a sense of his extraordinary compassion from this and maybe bring that into your own life and think about how you can prevent another family from living through the pain that my family is living with. And know that you can do something about this. You can have conversations in your community about how you can address this issue and make sure that this doesn't happen again. We know that the killer of my son at Sandy Hook had been planning this for over a year and had been giving off signs and signals for years before that. If we can train people how to recognize those signs and signals and know those signs, we can intervene and get someone help before it turns into a tragedy.