A Northern California high school student has created a short film about gun violence that spotlights the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, where 49 people were killed and 68 others were injured.
“First They Came” by Odessa Shlain Goldberg won top prize at the Our Pride Video Fest, a juried competition that encourages student filmmakers in schools and colleges to create digital stories about significant LGBTQ people, places, and events.
The film will be screened Sunday at Comic-Con.
Pulse nightclub shooting
“First They Came” interweaves images of mass shootings with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Martin Niemöller’s 1946 poem “First They Came.” Niemöller was a Lutheran pastor witnessed the Nazis’ rise to power.
“The film illustrates how passivity in the face of injustice is complicity during World War II, but instead reframes and rewrites the 1946 poem to focus on the prolific, devastating shootings in schools and public institutions,” Goldberg, a 16-year-old Tamalpais High School student from Mill Valley, said in a statement. “One of the horrific shootings commemorated is the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The final call to action of the video reminds the viewer to take action against gun violence by voting.”
Goldberg won the Troy Perry Award, which recognizes young people making an impact through social activism. The award is named after Rev. Troy Perry, a Los Angeles-based human rights activist and pioneer in social justice and equality, legal protection, and spirituality for LGBTQ+ people.
Perry helped lead the historic opposition in 1978 that defeated California’s Briggs Initiative, which would have allowed gay and lesbian teachers to be fired or prohibited from working in public schools.
In 1970, Perry conceived the first Gay Pride Parade, which took place in Los Angeles, and co-founded the Christopher Street West organization that launch LA Pride.
Perry is perhaps best known as the founder of Metropolitan Community Churches, the first church to recognize the spiritual needs of the gay community.
Perry said that Goldberg’s use of Niemöller’s poem is relevant and timely.
“The original poem was written by Niemöller following the Nazis’ rise to power and the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy, including Niemöller himself,” Perry said in the same statement. “Odessa’s video adapts the original message in a way which can move people to take action at this critical time in our country.”
Our Pride Video Fest
Our Pride Video Fest supports California’s mandated education requirement that classes to be non-discriminatory and integrate information about social movements, current events, and history of LGBTQ+ people into instruction.
“The struggles and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community are components of the Civil Rights Movement, yet many of these stories remain untold,” Our Pride Video Fest co-director Yvonne Marie Andrés said in the same statement. “This competition gives young people the opportunity to tell historically meaningful stories, as they collaborate with others locally or around the world.”