Parkland Rising

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Parkland Rising Movie Poster Image
Poignant, intense docu about gun safety activists.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 92 minutes

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Positive Messages

Survivors of a school shooting and their loved ones demonstrate not only empathy for one another but a spirit of activism and advocacy. They fight what they perceive as unjust, immoral laws. Students speak out about their beliefs and lead a national campaign for gun safety laws. Courage, communication, empathy, and teamwork are all exemplified.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parkland activists are courageous advocates for nonviolence, gun safety laws/policies, and stopping further school shootings. They're dedicated to their cause, even when faced with negative comments, death threats. They overcome various struggles to stand together.


Footage from Parkland shooting shows gunshots, students crying and shouting. Survivors and parents discuss the shooting, how their friends and children died. A father makes murals in honor of his son and Parkland victims to draw attention to gun safety laws. Pro-NRA activists are occasionally confrontational and ridicule the activists. David Hogg and other Parkland activists receive death threats via social media. A person holds up a sign that says the Second Amendment is more important than kids' lives.


Occasional strong language includes several uses of "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bulls--t," "bitch," and "p---y," either spoken or written on signs, used by both Parkland-related advocates and pro-gun activists. "Badass" is used a couple of times as a compliment.


Electronics and gun brands are visible in a few scenes: Apple, Mac, iPhone, Glock (on a T-shirt), AR-15 (being held, discussed).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parkland Rising is a documentary that focuses on the now well-known student and parent gun safety activists connected to the tragic February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The film primarily follows student David Hogg and parent Manuel Oliver (whose son Joaquin was killed), tracing how they and others spearheaded a national movement to bring awareness to school shootings and the gun laws they believe make these shootings so prevalent in the United States. Expect occasional strong language including "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," and "bitch," as well as difficult-to-watch footage from the day of the shooting. There are also upsetting scenes of pro-gun activists yelling at the students and holding up signs with insulting, provocative language, including one that reads "The Second Amendment is greater than Kids Lives." Families who watch the documentary together will have plenty to discuss about school shootings, gun laws in America, and how activists' true aims can get twisted by the opposing side -- as well as the film's themes of communication, empathy, courage, and teamwork.

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What's the story?

PARKLAND RISING is a documentary that focuses on how a group of survivors of the February 14, 2018, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida -- which left 17 dead and 17 wounded -- rallied to lobby for stronger U.S. gun safety laws. Many of the nationally recognized Parkland survivors are visible in the film (including Emma González, Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, Alex Wind, dad Fred Guttenberg, and more). But it specifically emphasizes the work of student David Hogg, whose younger sister Lauren lost several of her best friends that day, and Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in the shooting. The film shows how they, along with the other survivors, organized national campaigns to bring attention to gun culture and promote better gun laws.

Is it any good?

This film is a powerful chronicle of how the Parkland survivors rallied together to inspire America's youth to rethink laws that affect everyone. Filmmaker Cheryl Horner's interviews with the MSD students and parents are simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. This isn't the first documentary about a school shooting -- nor is it even the first about Parkland -- but it does a fine job of exploring how and why a few of the movement's key figures felt compelled to speak out and do more. Hogg explains that he initially got involved because of his little sister, a ninth grader whose best friends died the day of the shooting. He's since been one of the most vocal members of the Never Again MSD and March for Our Lives movements. Oliver and his wife, Patricia, share how their son Joaquin's life and death spurred them to create Change the Ref, a nonprofit dedicated to lobbying for gun safety and using art (particularly murals) to demand change.

The interviews in Parkland Rising aren't limited to the Olivers and the Hoggs. Horner branches out to talk to teachers and more than a dozen students who used their platform to shine a light on ongoing gun violence, as well as the ways in which the NRA keeps lobbying lawmakers to keep gun laws lenient. The film also makes clear that the students aren't against the Second Amendment or responsible gun use, no matter how easily their message is skewed by pro-gun demonstrators. Horner includes some good-faith, impromptu conversations between the students and some opposing demonstrators as a counterpoint to the unsettling, disturbing moments when others wave signs calling for the students' deaths (not to mention footage from videos in which people use Hogg's photo for target practice). It's always appreciated to be reminded how students can make a difference.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Parkland Rising. Why is it necessary to show in the documentary? How does the impact of real-life violence compare to the impact of fictional violence?

  • What does the documentary encourage viewers to do? How can you advocate for policies and issues that matter to you?

  • Some anti-Parkland demonstrators make jokes about the Parkland survivors' ages. Should adults listen to teens? Why is it important for children and teens to speak out on public policy issues?

  • How do the Parkland activists demonstrate courage and empathy? Why is teamwork important to their strategy and successes? How are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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