‘Bulletproof’ Review: Americans and Their Guns

This documentary shows a nightmarish vision of the consumer industry that has sprung up around school shootings.,


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Directed by Todd Chandler
1h 23m

The documentary “Bulletproof” begins as the sound of gunfire echoes through the halls of Woodside Middle School, in Missouri. The live shots are so startling to hear, it takes a moment to make visual sense of the stationary, impeccably lit and composed frames. Teachers barricade doors with tables and desks, but their classrooms hold no students. Volunteers in yellow vests roam the halls. Gradually, it becomes clear that the shots were fired as part of an elaborate drill staged by adults. They are attempting to rehearse their response to a school shooter.

Some participants play dead on the door, felled by imaginary bullets. Tourniquets are applied to imaginary wounds. But when the demonstrator role-playing as a shooter knocks at a door, his gun is real.

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It’s a dreamlike opening sequence, one that uses verite observation to present an alarmed and alarming vision of safety. The accomplishment of the director Todd Chandler is that he continues to find settings that demonstrate this same eerie divide between the desire for security, and the extreme measures being taken by schools to achieve impregnability.

He follows teachers into shooting ranges, where educators are trained to kill. School administrators justify the expenditures they have made for high security camera systems and show off their military grade weaponry. These subjects speak of the need for protection in schools, but what this admirably hands-off film shows is how the feelings of anxiety that have surrounded school shootings have been monetized and translated into demand for consumer products. It is a nightmarish vision — the military industrial complex deployed in the halls where children ought to roam.

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. In theaters and on virtual cinemas.

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