In the documentary “Midsummer in Newtown,” director and filmmaker Lloyd Kramer follows three families affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that occurred in December 2012. It is set around the community’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, starring the children of Newtown, Connecticut. The cameras follow Tain and Sammy from auditions, to the days after curtain call. We also see Jimmy and Nelba, who lost their daughter in the shooting. Jimmy shares his music to work on his grief and Nelba starts an organization for kids.
The entertainment industry often recreates tragedies for our enjoyment. Tragedy sells. And these works often help the viewers believe that the lives of others can somehow be made whole again. Midsummer in Newtown is not a film that recreates a tragedy. It is a documentary about how to deal with tragedy. It is beautifully shot, and sensitive to the participants and the community. The dialogue and direction of the story is effortless. But it does not have an easy wrap-up, because it is honest.
I love how naturally this documentary flows. It began as a chance mention to the producer in NYC that a Shakespeare play in Newtown was starting auditions immediately. After seeing footage of the children’s auditions, the documentary project was quickly green-lighted by Vulcan Productions, who are committed to inspire children to learn about the classics. The filmmakers were protective of the community that had been shell shocked by media coverage. What struck me the most was the uplifting and accepting theater environment that embraced these children.
Audiences should know what this movie is not. It is not a rehashing of the hundreds of hours of media coverage about a tragedy, full of sound and fury, that signifies nothing of any value. It is not a statement about gun control. And what I appreciate the most is, it is NOT a story that focuses on the shooter.
What it is, is a story about life. It is a story about how to raise resilient kids. It is a sweet and fragile film about a community’s struggle and, much like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, about how we struggle to find order in the chaos.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Participant Media and Vulcan Productions