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'Parkland Rising' producers discuss documentary as part of Mason’s Visiting Filmmakers Series

September 18, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

On Valentine’s Day in 2018, a school shooter massacred 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the aftermath, student survivors spoke out about the prevalence of guns in U.S. society.

The documentary “Parkland Rising” tracks the grassroots movement that emerged and grew from the tragic school shooting into a shift in the national conversation on guns in the United States. The feature-length film is being showcased as part of George Mason University’s Visiting Filmmakers Series Online: Black Lives Matter.

In addition, director and producer Cheryl McDonough and Mason alumna Sara Ramaker, executive producer and chief operating officer of will.i.am's I.Am.Media, along with film subject and gun control advocate Cameron Kasky, will discuss the film on Monday, Sept. 21, between 1:30  and 3 p.m.

The Mason community can also register to watch the film for free between Saturday, Sept. 19 and Monday, Sept. 21.

“This documentary is about hope and change,” said Ramaker, who graduated from Mason in 1993. “These kids are making change, and we wanted to support them and help elevate their voices.”

The Visiting Filmmakers Series is sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Visual and Performing Arts. In addition to featuring “Parkland Rising,” the series featured cinematographer Dominic J. Jones and will feature filmmakers Elegance Bratton and Chico Colvard.

Since 1995, the series has helped connect the Mason community with visiting filmmakers from all over the world and traditionally features two to three filmmakers each semester who visit the campus to share their work and answer audience questions.

This past spring, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the series was forced to go online. Cynthia Fuchs, director of the Visiting Filmmakers Series and interim director of Mason’s Film and Video Studies program, noted that the online format allows more people to attend the series in a less formal atmosphere.

“’Parkland Rising’ documents the making of an ongoing movement,” said Fuchs. “In assembling this history, the film also looks ahead. Reaching across communities and causes, March For Our Lives—like and with Black Lives Matter—invites all of us to understand our intersectional experiences and relationships in order to work toward a more just future.”

McDonough said she’s glad to have the opportunity to showcase the film and the student survivors of the Parkland shooting. The film depicts a lie-in at a grocery store in Florida, the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and efforts to register voters throughout the country, including a scene in Fairfax.

“It may seem like this is a film about one tragic incident, but it’s really about the power of people to change their world through action and protest,” said McDonough. “Ultimately, while it is about a difficult and painful subject, the movie itself is quite inspiring, hopeful and rousing.”

Ramaker hopes that featuring the documentary and participating in Mason’s Visiting Filmmakers Series will inspire young people, especially artists.

“Our history really is taught through art,” Ramaker said. “We are living in an important time, and there are creative ways to tell our history as it is happening. If we inspire other young filmmakers and other artists to tell their stories, then we’ve done something right.”