US KIDS – Review by Loren King
I was moved while watching director Kim A. Snyder’s Us Kids — to tears, to rage, to action. To deep admiration and to hope. Viewers of this extraordinary documentary may think they know the young people who survived the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 individuals and how these young survivors channeled their pain and rage into activism. But this film reveals how little we really understood, as it goes far beyond soundbites and clips of speeches to show who these individual students are and the mighty cost of their trauma and activism. The documentary follows the Parkland survivors as, in the aftermath of the shooting, they launch March For Our Lives in Washington DC, the largest youth protest in history. Then they traveled the country by bus in the summer of 2018, joining with other young activists in cities such as Chicago where gun violence is routine and usually ignored. At various stops along the tour, these teenage survivors of horrific gun violence are met with defiant protestors toting weapons and taunting them about why they want to ban guns (they don’t; they just don’t want kids to be murdered in their classrooms). Some of the Parkland students, particularly the outspoken and articulate David Hogg, are vilified by right wing media and regularly bombarded with death threats. As they continue to organize, mobilize against lenient gun laws, and speak out for political change, these “normal-ass kids,” as one student describes them, also deal with lingering and recurring physical and emotional trauma, the burdens of unwanted celebrity fueled by the media and the grueling demands of grassroots activism. Us Kids is a compelling story of several ordinary but remarkable young people who refuse to be victims and of their incessant efforts to reclaim democracy.