More than 32,000 people die from gun violence every year in America, an average of 88 people per day. REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD: AMERICAN SPRING 2014 highlights a few of the estimated 8,000 individuals who died from gunfire that spring, drawing exclusively on found media – news accounts, police investigations and social media – to shine a light on little-known stories of tragic loss, bringing the victims to life in their own words and images.
From a Facebook status update to a post on Instagram, from a newspaper headline to on-the-scene video, REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD details victims’ lives in the moments leading up to the shootings and shows how each death reverberates in the lives of others.
Whether by homicide, accident or suicide, a wide cross-section of Americans – men and women, young and old, from every racial background – are victims and perpetrators of gun violence. With images from social media postings, frantic 911 calls, police reports and videos, each story is hauntingly laid out through the unmediated expressions that remain. REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD places the viewer in victims’ and their families’ lives, capturing the shock and grief felt by their loved ones as the survivors are left to make sense of the horrific events.
Among the eight stories from 2014 are:
“Military Wife” – By all appearances, Kyla and Alex Ryng lived a happy life with three young children in Bristol, Conn. But the pair began having marital issues, and Kyla filed for divorce. Alex, a member of the Army National Guard, bought a gun, and shot his wife and himself a few days later while the kids were in their bedrooms.
“My Rock Is Gone” – Tiffany Davenport married Melvin Ray in Topeka, Kan. on May 24. But the couple’s joy turned to tragedy in the early hours of the next morning, when she was killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout, leaving her new husband and daughter, Destiny, devastated.
“In the Other Room” – Drafted by the Green Bay Packers, Jerel Worthy was always excited when his grandma, Mae Worthy, came to his games. When a gun handled by his grandfather discharged in the bedroom of his grandparents’ Huber Heights, Ohio home, the bullet passed through the wall and into the living room where Mae was sitting, striking her in the head and killing her.
“Best Friends” – Lucas and his 11-year-old best friend in Frazeysburg, Ohio, tliked tto bike and play video games together. When Lucas’ friend went into this dad’s bedroom one day to show Lucas a loaded pistol under the bed, it taccidentally went off, shooting Lucas in the shoulder. His friend made a tfrantic 911 call, but it was too late.
“My Most Beautiful Memory” – Eight days before Father’s Day, Renotta Jernigan of Chesterfield, Va. asked her husband, Chris, who had trouble holding a job and was suffering from depression, for a divorce. On Father’s Day, Chris shot and killed her and their two children (ages nine and two) before killing himself.
Bridging these main stories are dozens of headlines, brief, stark and shocking, coupled with vibrant photos of the people whose deaths are recounted. The film contains imagery for more than a hundred victims of gun violence in spring 2014, which is a small fraction of the 8,000-plus estimated to have died in that three-month period.
For details on these additional stories, click here.
“As vérité filmmakers, we seek the authentic voice of our subjects,” explain directors Shari Cookson and Nick Doob. “So in this case, we turned to social media as a way to find that voice. It was a kind of frozen time capsule, where we found our subjects engaged in their everyday lives, often until just before the shooting occurred. This became the heart of the film, the verite.”
In addition to found footage, REQUIEM uses 38 pieces of preexisting music from the internet, each with its own life and intrinsic emotion, which frame the moments collected.
As the stories accumulate, it becomes evident how many of these incidents could have been prevented by proper mental-health treatment, or if guns were absent or stored more securely.
Shari Cookson and Nick Doob won an Emmy® for 2009’s “The Memory Loss Tapes,” part of HBO’s “The Alzheimer’s Project.” Their other HBO projects include the Emmy®-nominated “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert,” the Emmy®-nominated “The Weight of the Nation for Kids: The Great Cafeteria Takeover” and “Quiz Ed!,” the Emmy® nominees “All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise” (Cookson) and “Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen” (Cookson), and the Emmy®-winning “Elaine Stritch: At Liberty” (Doob).
REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD: AMERICAN SPRING 2014 was directed and produced by Shari Cookson and Nick Doob; executive producer, Sheila Nevins; senior producer, Nancy Abraham; producer, Sascha Weiss; edited by Shari Cookson, Nick Doob, Charlton McMillan.