Behind the Bullet (2019) [Slamdance Film Festival 2019]

Director Heidi Yewman does a lot to conjure up awareness of gun violence and has contributed to injecting the reality of gun violence in the public consciousness. With ”Behind the Bullet” she continues that tradition for better and for worse. While “Behind the Bullet” is a documentary that everyone should watch, it’s a documentary people will only be able to see once, as it’s often difficult to endure. It shows us the stark reality of gun violence in four forms, but it’s also so incredibly depressing and soul crushing, and at rare times feels like its intent on shocking us more than informing us.

“Behind the Bullet” is centered on four people that have been drastically affected by gun violence. Will is struggling with the past involving gang violence, Taylor is still haunted by the horrible death of his little brother by a gun when he was a child, Kevin is an older man haunted by an incident involving his gun and a home invasion, and Christen is a woman whose face was torn apart by a gun wound, and has been in and out of surgery rooms her entire life in an anxious journey to restore her face.

Aside from being a bit too long in the tooth, “Behind the Bullet” constantly had me wondering if certain instances were necessary to the overall premise of the film. Some scenes in particular come off as merely sensationalist for the sake of pounding the message home. Whether it’s the on screen euthanizing of an animal, to Taylor recalling the day his brother died beat for beat, “Behind the Bullet” feels like it takes the whole message a step too far. I’m one who is very much for spreading awareness of gun safety and whatnot, but “Behind the Bullet” only gets the point across for about half of its run time.

While it’s wholly imperfect, it does carry with it an important warning about how gun violence can affect us permanently. It even destroys the whole idea of “stand your ground” by focusing on how much Kevin has been distraught since the home invasion that led him to use his gun years before. “Behind the Bullet” promotes an important message about gun violence, it’s just sad that the good intentions are often undermined by moments that can feel exploitative and sensationalist.

The Slamdance Film Festival runs every year from January 25th to January 31st.