By Daniel Grothe With on February 14, 2016

Newtown Sleepy towns are the backbone of the United States of America. They are made up of unassuming, hard-working people that have chosen the quiet life by eschewing the hustle-and-bustle of the big city. These people don’t care to be known. All they ask for in return is a peaceable and quiet life. Kim Snyder documents the heartbreaking day when the quietness of one town was stripped away, the day when every American learned there was a place called Newtown, Connecticut. And she gives voice to the unspeakable grief in the aftermath of the loss of 26 innocent and precious people. But instead of being a billboard upon which to fling her political project—though undoubtedly she has ideas and opinions—Snyder makes a film that serves as a window. This film is a window through which one can see the very worst that deranged humanity can inflict on other innocent humans. But what one ends up internalizing is the very best of humanity. Families making an effort to get back up, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers refusing to let hatred and senseless violence have the last word. And families that endeavor to heal the only way healing can be found—slowly and communally. Snyder’s presence remains almost invisible throughout, which I mean as a high compliment. An impatient documentarian would have forced this film, would have used this story. A lesser documentarian might have been tempted to turn this into voyeurism—allowing the viewer to cold-heartedly peer into another’s grief for peering’s sake. But that’s not what happens. Snyder’s own patience with the story—she walked with these families and this community for three years—is transmitted to the viewers and we, the viewers, are the holier for it. The best way I can describe what Kim Snyder accomplishes in Newtown is that she invites the viewer into (re)learning the ancient discipline of faithful lament. There’s a distinct how-long-O-Lord that imbues this film at a subterranean level. And in a world that is so schooled in denial, the Pauline “groan that words cannot express” must be recovered. For it is only in its recovery that one can be truly made ready for the when “the old order of things has passed away.”

About the Author: Daniel Grothe
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