‘We Are Columbine’ Review
A great many things changed on April 20, 1999. The “Columbine Massacre,” a school shooting (and pipe bombs) that resulted in many deaths and injuries, and subsequent copycats, was broadcast live on television for the world to witness. Laura Farber was a freshman at Columbine High School that fateful day, and now, almost 20 years later, she’s a filmmaker taking a look at the fallout from such a traumatic event.
Rather than document the progression of events – something that’s already been done numerous times – Ms. Farber enlists four of her former classmates, plus a teacher and the school principal to discuss their memories of the day, and more importantly, the impact it has had on their lives since. Gus was the stoner. Jaimi was an athlete whose big sister also attended the school. Amy was a cheerleader and social type. Zach was a studious soccer player. Mr. Zeyba was a first-year teacher at the time, and Mr. DeAngelis (“Mr. De”) was the school principal. None are especially anxious to revisit those memories, and without the trust they have for Ms. Farber, they probably wouldn’t have.
With filming set up at an otherwise unoccupied Columbine High School, each of the participants walks us through where they were that day and how they remember things unfolding. News clips and a 911 call from that day are replayed, but Farber wisely decides against showing the shooters or even mentioning their names. This is about the survivors and as difficult as the conversations are, we get the feeling it’s a cathartic exercise for them. We are stunned to hear that they have spoken very little of that day, even to each other or other classmates. There is an “understanding.”
This is a very intimate and personal look at how an unbelievably traumatic event can alter the life path of a person. Gus now expresses himself through his rap music. Jaimi is a nurse who values her time with her wife and kids. Amy is a social worker, and Zach is now a teacher at Columbine High School. Mr. Zeyba continues to teach and Mr. DeAngelis continued on as school principal…after testing numerous fire alarm signals to prevent flashbacks. Each is giving back in their own way after experiencing something most of us can barely imagine. It may not be a traditionally informative documentary, but it’s one that brings us as close as possible to what the survivors feel.