Expired June 22, 2020 7:00 PM
Already unlocked? for access
Protected ContentThis content can only be viewed in authorized regions: Maryland, Delaware, District Of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia.

Bulletproof explores the complexities of violence in schools by looking at the ways we try to prevent it. The film travels across the United States, observing the longstanding rituals that take place in and around schools: homecoming parades, basketball practice, morning

announcements, and math class. Unfolding alongside these scenes are a collection of newer traditions: lockdown drills, teacher firearms training, metal detector screenings, and school safety trade shows. Bulletproof weaves together these moments in a cinematic meditation on fear, violence, and the meaning of safety, bringing viewers into intimate proximity with the people self-tasked with protecting the nation's children while generating revenue along the way, as well as with those most deeply impacted by these heightened security measures: students and teachers.

Our notes: Though largely quiet, told through static camera views and patient editing, Bulletproof is a profoundly haunting look at the relationship between America’s public schools, the push for increased surveillance within them, and the casual enlistment of firearms to that end. This brilliantly restrained documentary from filmmaker Todd Chandler holds back overt judgement in a way that should make viewers on either side of the divide examine the crucially relevant particulars of their individual opinion. It’s hard (for me) to imagine how an ordinary, publicly-funded high school casually stockpiling over 20 AR-15s could be interpreted as anything less than troubling, but Chandler admiringly presents that fact without editorializing, trusting you to digest it yourself.

Despite this heavy subject matter—particularly relevant during this moment when our critique of police presence in schools is finally entering broad consciousness—the film remains an experience that brings the potential for entertainment through interpretation. Bulletproof is foremost composed of everyday scenes from the lives of students, educators, and policymakers. We see teenagers record morning announcements, elementary-schoolers twitch about during boring lectures, and school bands march in parade. However, the background details and juxtaposition of scenes are where the film comes alive. Those kids are listening to their teacher walk them through a meditation exercise to curb excess energy that could lead to anger, those teens on the TV news are revealed to in fact always be under the eye of cameras with facial-recognition, and that band is playing the apropos “Great Balls of Fire.” As the film progresses, it similarly examines a training course for armed teachers, a school security convention in Las Vegas, a well-intentioned tech worker turned kevlar hoodie entrepreneur, and plenty more.

Chandler’s film shares a certain cadence with last year’s The Hottest August, as well as a producer in Danielle Varga, but Michael Glawogger’s documentaries, such as Workingman’s Death, sit stylistically closer. Subject-led commentary abuts more haunting audio, like the sound of countless bullet casings being broomed across a floor. With such contrasts, Chandler has landed a fine document of how human fears have led us to reach for inhuman defenses. – Mitchell Goodrich, MdFF

  • Year
  • Runtime
    84 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Todd Chandler
  • Producer
    Todd Chandler, Danielle Varga
  • Cinematographer
    Emily Topper
  • Editor
    Todd Chandler, Shannon Kennedy