Newtown: What Remains After All Is Lost?

Four years after the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history, the pain is still raw. Westporters recall that horrific day, and our hearts ache for our friends and relatives in Newtown.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, November 2), theaters all over the country are showing a riveting documentary. “Newtown: What Remains After All is Lost?” will be followed by a national, livestreamed discussion about where we go now.

The poster — a melancholy, misty image of the town’s iconic church — suits the mood.


Photographer Tom Kretsch is a Newtown native.

But Tom has lived for many years in Westport. A former educator in the Norwalk school system, his work has been featured here and throughout Fairfield County for many years.

A few days after the Sandy Hook shooting, “06880” posted a story and image of Sandy Hook Elementary School, taken a few months earlier by Tom. (Click here for that story.)

Tom’s photo of the church hung in Newtown’s Town Hall. Film director Kim Snyder saw it there, and asked to use it for the documentary’s publicity.

Tom Kretsch took this photo of Sandy Hook Elementary School just a few months before the tragedy.

Tom Kretsch took this photo of Sandy Hook Elementary School just a few months before the tragedy.

Snyder spent 3 years in Newtown after the tragedy, gaining confidence and support of many of the victims’ families. The film was shown at last year’s  Sundance Festival.

“Newtown” documents a traumatized community which — though fractured by grief — joins together in a story of resilience.

Mark Barden — whose young son Daniel was one of the 26 children and educators murdered that day — says that the film and conversation that follow are crucial.

“Even though we are spread across the country and won’t be in the same theater, we can all be there watching Newtown and the live-streamed town hall together, starting important conversations about preventable gun violence.

“Losing my sweet little Daniel is something I will never move on from. But what we can do is move forward together, step by step, toward a safer future for our children.”

(The film will be shown locally at the AMC Loews Danbury 16. Click here to buy tickets online, and to find other locations.)

19 responses to “Newtown: What Remains After All Is Lost?

  1. Not sure of what to think about this, Dan. When I see that Sundance logo, , all the trappings of a documentary promotion campaign, with director Kim Snyder featured prominently throughout, I can’t help but think that someone is exploiting victims’ unspeakable grief for a film project

    • The families that participated are adamant about the importance of getting their message about gun violence out to the public. They don’t want anyone forgetting what happened.

    • I met Victoria Soto (1rst grade teacher in Newtown) just once — shortly before she was killed & what we spoke about was actually documentaries about human rights (& also about a young child of her students age who had just been murdered & the trial).

      My impression was not of someone who would think of this documentary –which brings light to this important subject — as exploitation.

  2. Bobbie Herman

    It disgusts me that the gun lobby has been able to prevent gun control laws. There have been several other massacres since Sandy Hook and the NRA is still able to control lawmakers. It’s totally unconscionable. As the old song goes — “How many deaths will it take ’til we know that too many people have died?”

  3. Yes but it seems so commercialized, and also trivialized by using cliches like a “A National Conversation” juxtaposed with the headline: “Buy Tickets Now.”

    If this were really devoted to the families, rather than the filmmakers, would not the screenings be at non-profit venues like churches and synagogues, vs. commercial theaters?

    I see the film is backed by celeb-couple Kenneth Cole and Maria Cuomo. (He the shoe manufacturer famous for his billboard on the West Side Highway and she the daughter of the late NY Gov.) Certaily people of this wealth and fame do not require the trappings of a commercial film release if their sole objective is to fight gun violence.

  4. I know Kim Snyder and I can say emphatically that she is not exploiting anybody’s grief. If you see the film you will see that she is very respectful. She simply points a lens at this community in the aftermath of a major tragedy and shows what it is like to trying to recover from such loss. You can draw your own conclusions about those facts and what should be done. I will be going to Milford tomorrow night with a group of Westporters to watch this film for the second time.

  5. How unfortunate that Mr. Blau’s view is so petty and churlish. By his logic, C.S. Lewis was exploited by his publisher in writing “A Grief Observed” after the death of his wife. By Mr. Blau’s logic the intentions of the filmmaker must be punished by economic loss for the years spent on this project, and she must feed her own family by some means other than her chosen profession. More, people wanting to communicate a message should do so without funding or the assistance of others who might help them get their message out if those people have wealth or fame. And heaven forbid that a “message movie” be distributed to actual theatres, when it could instead lose money and avoid viewers in church basements.

    I will never watch this movie. I might agree or disagree with many of the positions it takes. But I have great respect for the families who participated and for their courage in choosing to remember their children in a vocal and visible way that looks to the future while paying homage to what is lost. That is a very difficult thing to do, and it deserves respect.

  6. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Isn’t there a quote that the pursuit of knowledge is never ending, the day you stop seeking knowledge is the day you stop growing…
    This film is necessary, sadly so, but necessary.

  7. Sharon Paulsen

    I’ve always had mixed feelings about the MSM’s take on the Newtown tragedy, but I do welcome independently funded films that might/could provide a more in depth perspective.

    But, it’s also a good practice to question everything, including motivations, and perhaps the money behind a given project.

    So, I get what Blau is saying.

    I also feel like this type of situation should allow for open dialogue and/or gut-reaction feelings about what went down.

    So, IMO, if someone feels like a film is exploiting the Newtown events for profit, then perhaps it’s okay to just listen to those reactions openly – perhaps put on different ears, for a moment.

    It’s emotional and broad reaching. And it’s okay to be annoyed or angered by anything that brings those feelings up in our consciousness. Including feelings of potential “profit-from-pain” exploits, even if it’s not necessarily the case.

    I don’t personally have any issues with the money backers of this film. Some might pen it as liberal agenda, but I can’t see why that’s a problem, if true.

    We need balance in a world where the NRA has too much power, monetary agendas, and therefore does no service to the nation and it’s discourse.

    I could never wrap my head around the Newtown massacre. It was so bizarre, shocking, and not-of-reality, in all aspects … for me.

    But, it happened.

    • Caylee Anthony. Victoria Soto told me she was *obsessed* w/ watching that trial. (Not surprising since Victoria taught first grade). People who care profoundly about other people take an interest in the circumstances of their earthly agony as well. Filmmakers & others who frame the horror around us have to fund their films or journalism or art & they also have to eat & clothe & house themselves.

      Nobody accuses icon writers of exploiting Saints & Martyrs. (Though they have had other reasons to be against them: chiefly a biblical admonition against reproducing images). Nobody looks at an icon of St.Sebastian shot through w/ arrows & thinks: The exploitation! Because the point is to empathise w/ those who have suffered & behaved honourably & peacefully & nobly whilst on this earth. Film has taken over a lot of ancient societal functions. One of those is to revere people whose actions we admire & remember them & model ourselves after them. Another to enact some kind of societal change in the advance of good.

      Lastly to your last revelation: NOBODY can wrap their head round what happened in Newtown. My mother’s ENTIRE *Nazis-murder-allied bombing-people on fire-Russian retribution-horrible starvation-father in slave labour* WWII years went by as an “unreal dream”. I was in a *fugue* state for exactly six months after Newtown thinking *Oh there must be TWO teachers named Victoria w/ the same name who taught FIRST grade & lived in STRATFORD w/ their parents…* etc. etc. etc. & that was five months AFTER I uncurled myself from a fetal position. After six months I was hit w/ the knowledge…

      Victorias parents & the parents of the children did not have the luxury of a fugue state… of the mind turning away…

      It is not a LOVING act to turn AWAY from the suffering of others. It IS a LOVING act to turn TOWARD the suffering of others. Hence the three day vigil at the cross. Hence icons. Hence documentaries about small innocent sacred children ruthlessly murdered for no reason – which their OWN parents WANT you to see.

      People who want to look away from the suffering of others find all sorts of rational reasons to do so. Ultimately it is about their own fears vs. looking out for the loved ones of the families. Because as Dan explained the families were behind the film & want the world to focus on extinguishing gun violence.
      Turning away or accusing people who enable us to REALLY look does nothing to advance their cause…

    • PS > Sharon Paulsen:

      Re. “mixed feelings about the MSM’s take on the Newtown tragedy”

      (MSM = Main Stream Media apparently… I had to look that up… and read past the chemistry entries… ). What does that mean: the “MSM’s take”? Do you mean reporting what happened? Because that was their “take”. As well as the “take” of more independent sources. Aside from some *sources* who are NOT “MSM” — who are conspiracy theorists — who have been harassing the families of the victims — I have never heard a different “take”.

      What’s next — criticising Claude Lanzmann for his eleven years in the making documentary ‘Shoah’ — because some *sources* outside of the “MSM” think it is full of actors or something?

      Sometimes giving equal weight to everything & everyone under the Sun has the effect of minimising people’s tragedies & adding to their pain.

  8. Hey, it’s the churlish and petty Mr. Blau again:

    Shoah was released 40 years after the end of WWII, so that’s a big difference vs 4 years. Hollywood — never known for its good taste — kept its distance from the Holocaust for decades as well.

    Someone mentioned Kaylee Anthony. I think this story is the poster child for exploiting tragedy, with the chief exploiter being the execrable Ms. Nancy Grace. I would never compare a garden variety upscale documentarian like Ms. Snyder with Nancy Grace of course.

    But we are all so indoctrinated to accept the mass media’s low standards of taste that even Nancy Grace is rarely seen for what she is. Ditto, Mr. John Walsh, who has turned the murder of his own child, Adam Walsh, into a major media career.

    • @ Peter Blau

      Clearly you are so intent in advancing your point of “exploitation” that you did not read or understand what I wrote. Victoria Soto is the young teacher murdered after hiding her children in cupboards. She herself told me she was obsessed w/ watching the outcome of the trial on the Caylee Anthony murder. She herself did not see it as “exploitation”. She had a lot of empathy — so did not hide from the suffering of others. Therefore I very much doubt that she would feel people were exploiting her children who were murdered by creating a documentary about the tragedy which took the life of her children & her colleagues & herself & left behind her devastated family & town. As I wrote earlier — in my first post here — we also spoke of other human rights documentaries. She did not see those as exploiting their subjects either.

      I never said she watched the television show you have referred to. The murder of that child was covered elsewhere as was the trial. Victoria was a university graduate in her late twenties who as everyone now knows taught school & was studying for her masters when she was killed. She was highly intelligent & incredibly level headed — obviously to have been able to speak very calmly to the gunman & tell him the children had gone to the gym. I doubt she would have been influenced by the type of television you are referencing. Please refrain from twisting my words & recollections around.

      • I was not responding to you, Miss Kassis, so I plead not guilty to twisting your words around!

        I wish people could respond to these comments without making personal attacks on others.

        • @ Peter Blau

          I was the person who wrote about Victoria having spoken of watching coverage on ‘Caylee Anthony’ (which you responded to) AND ‘Shoah’ (which you responded to).

          • So you mentioned Shoah and Kaylee Anthony. And so did I. Exactly how did I twist any of your words around?

  9. @ Mr.Blau

    Re. Hollywood films > 40 years > holocaust films

    A lot of directors & producers & cinematographers & actors had barely escaped the Nazis w/ their lives — leading to Hollywood having been called ‘Weimar on the Pacific’. Perhaps that generation had to pass on — as those people such as my mother & grandmother did not like to talk about their experiences. I think they were running for their lives & they just sort of kept *running* from all that in their heads. The next generation are the ones that asked questions & hence more films after 40 years. Although that may not be true of Claude Lanzmann (given his age?).

    I wish you love & happiness Mr. Blau. Ultimately we are all on the same little ship rowing about rowing (get it? = fighting over the oars). Perhaps change your name from *BLUE* to sunny *YELLOW*.

    • PS > Mr.Gelb (= sunny *yellow* vs. blue)

      You are probably right that you did not ~~~twist~~~ my words around: rather you cast a macabre funereal shade over them! 🙂