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Song of Parkland

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Song of Parkland TV Poster Image
Affecting mini-docu about students after a tragic shooting.

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Positive Messages

Students grappling with a terrible situation show courage and empathy for each other. The musical they rehearse and stage during this short film is a fine example of teamwork, too. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Drama teacher Herzfeld understands that by allowing her students to put on a production as planned, she's helping them get over their school's tragedy: "Kids heal in a lot of different ways," she says wisely. 

Violence

A terrible school shooting is described; we hear 911 calls and news audio and see images of students running desperately from the school. We also see emotional and affecting texts from the drama students to their parents while they were hiding during the shooting. The name of the shooter is not mentioned at all. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Song of Parkland is a documentary about a group of drama students at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who decide that their show must go on after 17 students and teachers are killed by a shooter at their school. Viewers hear students describe the shooting's impact on their lives and see footage of teens running out of the school, terrified, on the day of the shooting, accompanied by 911 audio. Students are also shown grieving, with flowers and mementos laid on graves; the pictures and names of students who were killed are seen. The name of the shooter isn't mentioned, and the film's focus is on the surviving students and their healing process. Drama teacher Melody Herzfeld is supportive and thoughtful, committed to helping her students get over the shooting. Viewers may want to talk about school violence and gun control after watching. 

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What's the story?

Filmed in the months following the shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, SONG OF PARKLAND focuses on drama teacher Melody Herzfeld and her young thespians. While the shooting was going on, 65 students safely hid with Herzfeld in a back office while 17 of their classmates were killed. After the shooting, both teacher and students decide that the show they were rehearsing must go on. The documentary shows their rehearsals, footage from the day of the shooting, segments from rallies and speeches, and ultimately their finished performance and appearance on the Tony Awards. 

Is it any good?

Affecting and immediate, this brief documentary isn't long enough to really let you get to know its student-subjects but the healing power of art and an empathetic authority figure is vividly clear. Left grappling with unthinkable pain and what one student says is a city and school that's "broken," these teens clearly take solace in each other's company, the firm support of their teacher, and in having a common goal to take their mind off the terrible thing that's just happened. This is made immediately clear in an early scene, when phone and news footage shows students running terrified out of the school, followed by a scene after which classes have resumed and the drama students gather in a small space, sharing bean bags and leaning on each other's knees, to sing a song from their forthcoming musical. What's happened has happened. But they are alive, they are together, and they have a job to do. 

The musical goes on, the students are shown speaking at rallies -- in fact, some of #NeverAgain's most eloquent speakers have mentioned Herzfeld when asked how ones so young could be so profound. It's hard not to tear up when you see faces so young discussing subjects so grave, especially with the knowledge that thus far, not much has changed about gun laws on a national level despite their advocacy (although changes were made to laws in Florida). It's also hard not to hope that someday Song of Parkland will be a glance at a movement that was to burgeon and swell, making real positive changes -- or to fear that instead it merely depicts interesting people caught in a tumultuous moment of time that is destined to repeat itself. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the questions raised by Song of Parkland. Why is it so easy to buy guns in our country? How has this changed since the documentary was made? Has it? Of what benefit is it to revisit this tragedy? How does telling this story help illuminate the grief and catastrophe of all whose lives were shattered? Parents: How can you talk to your family about these events when they are reported in the news?

  • What can you do to try to reduce violence or to change other things that matter to you? What different avenues do people use to affect change?

  • How do these students and their teacher demonstrate empathy and courage? How is teamwork important to their success? Why are these important character strengths?

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