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'After Parkland' Shows Differing Approaches To Activism And Recovery From MSD Families

Emily Taguchi and Stephanie Walsh
ABC Documentaries
Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Victoria Gonzalez at the funeral for her boyfriend, Joaquin Oliver. Oliver was among the 17 people killed in the tragedy.

This post has been updated.

Feb. 14 marks two years since 14 students and three adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed on campus. Since the tragedy, students have organized nationwide protests focused on gun violence, successfully lobbied for legislation in the Florida legislature over school safety and started the next chapter of their lives in college and beyond. The upcoming ABC News documentary, "After Parkland," explores how the parents and students have recovered from the tragedy and were inspired to take action in very different ways.

ABC News filmmakers Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman spent more than a year with the students and parents documenting their journey. "After Parkland" will have a special screening Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale at Savor Cinema, with a number of parents and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas in attendance. It will be screened nationwide in select theaters on Feb. 12 and available on Hulu beginning Feb. 19.

WLRN: You started interviewing the students and parents days after the shooting occurred. How did you get that kind of access? How did that all begin?

LEFFERMAN: So Emily and I are producers for ABC News. And so, sadly, we have been on assignment in mass tragedies situations before. So when Parkland happened, pretty much immediately afterwards we went down to Parkland with our team, us and Stephanie Wash, who's one of our producers. And those first days are very difficult. You're asking someone in a community in some of its darkest hours to open up and talk to you. We met different individuals in different places. We met Andrew Pollack outside of the school. Through phone calls and Facebook, we met other families. And initially, it was slow conversations. You know, we didn't immediately approach with cameras. We wanted to make sure that the students and families were comfortable with us. So we started off with those meetings. 

WLRN: You were in their house. You were with them a lot of the time.  It's unbelievable to hear from the students days after the tragedy and then having to return to school. Student David Hogg described it this way: "Imagine getting in a plane crash, surviving and getting on the same plane every day and the one issue that caused it isn't fixed." How would you describe the way the students were reacting?

It was two weeks later, I was with David and his family as they were getting ready that morning. We got there at 5:00 a.m.. His mom described it as surreal. I don't think anyone knew exactly how to feel except that it was off. You know, student Sam Zeif talks about how you're returning to a place where people you know had been killed. I think it was intense. I think it was frustrating for some students and clearly emotional. And to be able to be in those cars and that morning was very impactful for us. 

One character that you highlight in the film is another father. This one is Manuel Oliver. He's the father of Joaquin Oliver (who was killed in the shooting). How does his story of grief and activism differ from Andrew Pollack, because they're both very active on this issue. How does that compare to the Andrew Pollack story? His was so different. 

I think their positions are very different. Their political outlook is very different. Manual's position is very much that the solution lies in cutting off the ties between the NRA and the politicians who represent us. He expresses himself very differently and his activism has taken on the form of art, which comes from him being an artist and a creative director. Right now, he's on tour with a one-man show about his son and their family's story. He's also working on certifying companies as being gun safe. His politics are very different from Andrew's. Yet the thing that binds them, you know, they oftentimes talk about with mass shootings, they talk about the club that nobody wants to belong to. And now they belong to this where they both have suffered this devastating, devastating loss of losing your child.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.