Organizers Hope ‘Shell Shocked’ Screening, Panel Discussion Promotes ‘Bridge Building’

RIDGEFIELD — Organizers of a documentary screening and panel discussion set for Monday, January 20, at 7:30 pm, at The Ridgefield Playhouse hope the event will inspire increased collaboration between urban communities that witness gun violence on almost an hourly basis, and communities like Newtown, whose experience with gun violence on December 14, 2012, continues to attract global attention.

Newtown residents are invited to join Shell Shocked producer John Richie of New Orleans, Attorney Monte Frank of Newtown, the Reverend Sam Saylor of Hartford, and the Reverend Henry Brown of Hartford in a screening of the documentary, followed by a CNN segment featuring Mr Frank and Rev Saylor.

A subsequent panel discussion on gun violence in America aims to illustrate how urban and suburban communities are joining forces to create a movement to reduce the gun violence epidemic.

“This was originally brought to me in conjunction with a screening the film makers are planning to do at the Taft School in Watertown,” Mr Frank explained. “But when the Playhouse management heard about it, they asked if we could put together a screening and panel discussion tied to the tragedy in Newtown.”

The panel will be moderated by Morton Dean, a correspondent for CBS News for 20 years, and ABC News for 14 years.

Mr Dean covered many historic, headline-making stories around the world. His freelance activities have included commentaries on National Public Radio and hosting and voicing over documentaries on the History Channel and A&E Biography series.

Mr Frank, who serves as legal adviser to Newtown Action Alliance and who led the Team 26 bicycle ride to Washington in 2013, believes that anyone who attends the screening will be in for “an eye-opening experience.”

“I really think it will get people talking about gun violence and the daily experience of violence in the inner city, versus what we experienced here in Newtown,” Mr Frank said. “I hope through the film and the discussion, people will get a better idea about how communities are working together to defeat gun violence whether they are in places like New Orleans, Hartford, or Newtown.”

Shell Shocked examines the grim reality of murder through the eyes of children, how gun violence is plaguing America’s African-American youth, and the organizations that are working to change this cycle of violence.

The film focuses on New Orleans, which has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the United States — four to six times higher than the national average. Eighty percent of those victims are black males, mostly in their teenage years.

“This film is all about building bridges, which is exactly what Rev Brown, Rev Salyer and I are trying to do — build bridges between urban and suburban communities,” Mr Frank said. “The film illustrates how communities are finding peaceful ways of dispute resolution amid the violence occurring in New Orleans.”

 Mr Frank said attendees to the panel discussion will hear about partnerships that are beginning to happen between cities like Hartford and Newtown.

Shell Shocked was the recipient of the Cultural Spirit Award at the 2013 New Hope Film Festival, and the winner of the 2013 Chicago International Social Change Film Festival. It is currently being implemented into a national prison education initiative called Jail Education Solutions, which provides prisoners with positive, educational alternatives to their everyday television programming.

Ridgefield Playhouse is at 80 East Ridge. Admission for the January 20 screening and panel discussion is free, but seats can be reserved. Call The Ridgefield Playhouse box office at 203-438-5795 for reservations.

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