Gun violence takes center stage at Sundance with premiere of “Newtown”

Gun violence was the focus of several documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival this year, most notably Newtown, which premiered at the festival on Jan. 24. The film, directed by Kim A. Snyder, revisits the residents of Newtown, Conn., in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre that left 20 children and six teachers dead. Newtown is a gripping exploration into a community’s profound grief and what happens after it becomes the center of a national debate around gun violence.

That debate, which for so long included unheeded urgent and widespread calls for changing America’s gun laws, finally culminated in a powerful announcement by President Obama earlier this month: The White House will seek stronger and more expansive background checks for gun buyers.

This is welcome news for nonprofit advocacy and education organizations, which for years have been leading calls for common-sense approaches to gun safety. With a few notable exceptions, such as the Joyce and California Wellness foundations, grantmakers have mostly remained silent on gun violence, an issue that became the focus of a January 2013 Media Impact Funders discussion about how philanthropy can help support efforts to accelerate changes to gun laws. The discussion also included Newtown producer Maria Cuomo Cole, who was on hand to discuss Living for 32, which follows a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree.