The new HBO documentary Valentine Road, which tackles the issue of gun violence in the United States, is set to air on Oct 7. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and also screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs.
Valentine Road is a difficult film to sit through, though an important one. The story the documentary is based on made headlines around the world in 2008 and drew the attention of people such as Ellen DeGeneres (who openly wept while discussing it on her talk show).
The film is about Lawrence King, an openly queer teenager who had begun to explore the idea of gender by wearing makeup and high-heeled shoes. King made a fatal error by asking Brandon McInerney, a fellow eighth grader, to be his Valentine. The end result was tragic: McInerney shot King in the back of the head at point-blank range and killed him.
First-time director Marta Cunningham lets everyone, from McInerney’s and King’s classmates to the homophobic jury members, tell their own version of events, devoid of judgment or intrusion, and the end result is more heartbreak than fury.
“What this film is meant to do,” Cunningham explains, “is be a catalyst for conversation for dialogue.”
Attuned to the misfortune of both the boys' lives and circumstances, the film tackles the issues of gender, bullying and gun violence. Valentine Road is a film that’s hard to shake and will likely leave tears streaming down your face. At a time when gun violence in American classrooms is all too frequent an occurrence, this documentary is vital.
See more of Xtra's coverage of Valentine Road.
Valentine Road airs Monday, Oct 7 on HBO.