April 23, 2018 / 12:07 PM / 10 months ago

U.S. mass shooting survivors pay it forward with two short films

, (Reuters) - Tim McGrath emerged from the 2012 movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado, physically unscathed, but his heart breaks whenever another person with a gun makes headlines in the United States.

New York filmmaker Kim Snyder’s work has allowed her to be privy to what she calls a “terrible club that no-one wants to be a member of” that is made up of communities traumatized by gun violence in schools, workplaces, churches or places of leisure.

Two short films shown at New York’s Tribeca film festival last week - “Surviving Theater 9” and “Notes from Dunblane: Lessons From a School Shooting” - look at the emotional and mental toll of gun violence in hopes of helping both current survivors, and those yet to come.

“Every time a shooting comes, my heart just breaks for the people who are about to live through what we have all lived through, and knowing that it will forever change their lives,” said McGrath, who wrote and directed “Surviving Theater 9.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks gun-related deaths based on official records, there were 346 mass shootings - defined as four or more people shot in one incident - in America in 2017.

McGrath’s 40-minute film recounts his own struggles and those of two other people after the 2012 shooting that killed 12 people and injured 70 in Colorado during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

All the experiences are true, ranging from flashbacks, crass comments, guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as coping mechanisms learned at the Aurora Resilience Center.

“I thought that by showing our stories and honouring the survivors that I went through the healing process with, we could help some other folks,” said McGrath,

McGrath wasn’t among those shot but he nevertheless had a hard time for years afterward and said he made the film because he couldn’t find anything like it.

“I was going to therapists and reading tomes about psychology and PTSD and ways to get through it. But I was craving something I could just sit down and watch,” he said.

Snyder’s 22-minute film also focuses on healing rather than the shooters or the polarizing issues of gun control.

“Notes from Dunblane” looks at the relationship between two Catholic priests in Newtown, Connecticut, and Dunblane, Scotland, over eerily similar shootings in elementary schools in both small towns in 2012 and 1996 respectively.

Newtown’s Father Bob Weiss and Dunblane’s Father Basil O’Sullivan began writing to each other after the Newtown school shooting, sharing their struggles to explain and comfort the families of the children shot dead, many whom they also buried.

“It really points to the epidemic of how many communities are now connected over this issue and how many people can name people they know who are affected by gun violence,” said Snyder.

Snyder and McGrath hope their films will be shown at churches, schools, colleges and community centres and be available to all of those who struggle to get their lives back together.

Snyder said that in making the film she came to understand “this need to reach out to those who have walked in these shoes that no-one can imagine (and) the impetus for them to help the next ones, to pay it forward.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Robert Birsel

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