The title of this poignant and moving documentary refers to the parents, siblings and extended families of the 12 students and one teacher who were killed during the 1999 shootings at Colorado’s Columbine High School.
The filmmakers employ a mix of home videos, photographs and numerous interviews to offer insight into the personalities, achievements and struggles of the Columbine victims. News footage from the shooting and its aftermath, along with rarely seen school surveillance video of the panic created by the gunmen, provide intensive insight regarding the depth and scope of the fatal rampage.
The film carries an extraordinary level of pain – parents recall learning that their children were among the dead, while one young survivor notes how vicious racial slurs uttered by the gunmen were the last words that were heard by Isaiah Emon Shoels, the sole African American victim. The film also details how the families of the slain sought to memorialize their honor – some entered the fray of politically mandated gun control while others rallied for a formal monument, which was dedicated in a special ceremony featuring former President Bill Clinton.
It is extremely difficult to view “13 Families” without being impacted by the undying love expressed for the Columbine victims, and many sensitive viewers should be forewarned about the acute heartbreaking nature of this nonfiction production. Ultimately, this is a beautiful tribute to 13 beautiful lives.