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EXCLUSIVE: Barbara Kopple Talks HBO Gun Control Doc, Gun Fight: "Reason is Lost"

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood April 8, 2011 at 8:29AM

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A., American Dreams, Shut Up and Sing) is premiering her latest, HBO Documentary's Gun Fight, on HBO April 13, three days before the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting (33 people killed) and a week before the 12 year anniversary of the Columbine Massacre (12 people killed).
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Thompson on Hollywood


Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A., American Dreams, Shut Up and Sing) is premiering her latest, HBO Documentary's Gun Fight, on HBO April 13, three days before the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting (33 people killed) and a week before the 12 year anniversary of the Columbine Massacre (12 people killed).

In true Kopple form, Gun Fight is provocative and hard-hitting. Michael Moore's Oscar-winning 2002 documentary Bowling for Columbine looked at the state of guns and "gun control" in America (trailer below). Now Kopple's film investigates where the issue stands in 2011. Below is our interview with Kopple, in which she states: "It’s such a hot button issue that elicits passion from all sides, and often times reason is lost."

Also check out the Gun Fight Facebook page, trailer and stills below.

What is the biggest misconception about gun control in the US?

Thompson on Hollywood


Barbara Kopple: One big misconception about gun control is the very term itself. Some who oppose gun control view the term as a serious threat to their right to own any sort of gun.  Others perceive gun control as enforcing things like background checks, cracking down on straw purchases and closing the gun show loophole.  Language is very powerful and I think we need to start out by making the term “gun control” less divisive.  My hope is that all sides can somehow agree on a definition, eliminate misconceptions, and move forward together.  

Are there two clear opposing sides on the gun control issue?

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BK: Some people and organizations like us to believe that gun control is an issue comprised of two extremes -- banning guns completely or having unlimited access to firearms without any restrictions.  In reality though, it's a far more complex issue that's impossible to break down into two sides.  A person can be opposed to gun control, but also anti-NRA.  Or pro gun ownership, but in favor of thorough background checks.  And the list goes on and on.   I want this film to show that the issue is not so black and white and to make audiences aware of some of the different leanings and perspectives in the hopes of a greater understanding of this issue as a whole. 

What is your hope for Gun Fight?
BK: My hope for “Gun Fight” is that it inspires a common-sense conversation about gun ownership and gun control.   It’s such a hot button issue that elicits passion from all sides, and often times reason is lost.  I sincerely hope there’s middle ground somewhere that even the most ardent anti-gun individual and the staunchest pro-gun NRA member can agree on.  For example, most everyone would agree that violent criminals shouldn’t be able to purchase guns.  I think together we should be able to figure out how this can happen, whether it's through background checks, waiting periods or another method that would prove effective.  

Thompson on Hollywood


Photos, top to bottom: Colin Goddard, one of the characters in the film buying an automatic weapon at a gun show without showing any ID or having a background check. Colin was a student at Virginia Tech in April, 2007 and was shot 4 times during the mass shooting there.  When he recovered from his injuries, he got involved in efforts to end the so-called Gun Show Loophole, which allows sales between private parties (as opposed to Gun Dealers) without background checks | Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, an activist pro-gun group | Dr. Garen Wintemute of UC Davis Medical Center examining a patient who'd been wounded ten years ago | A sign from an anti-gun violence demonstration.


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This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Video, Interviews , TV, Documentaries, Trailers, HBO


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.