NMA Ocumentary – Short Film
When a bartender introduces a film producer from New Zealand to a work colleague and his dysfunctional family, it sets off a deadly sequence of events.
In search of a story, an ocumentary producer from New Zealand calls into a bar where Josh Hardaway a recovering addict works.
Unwittingly Josh offers up his colleague Wyatt Avant as a potential subject. An interview with Wyatt unearths his dysfunctional family—borderline genius brother Aaron and abusive opioid dependent, father Jed.
Josh has more subjects for the producer—single mother Sharon Smith and ten-year-old daughter Alyssa who is deeply affected by the Parkland, Florida school shootings.
The one bright light in Wyatt’s life is aspiring journalist girlfriend, Sophia Lopez.
How Mass Shootings Affected my Work as a Filmmaker
My story begins in New Zealand, but my story of becoming a filmmaker really begins in the United States. I moved to the American South with my wife in 2017, but it wasn’t until I’d lived here for a while that I decided to finally focus on one of the most critical issues of our time.
Before starting work on NMA Ocumentary, I worked on two documentaries that focused on inequalities in the past.
My first documentary The Yard (2018) was about a slave auction site in Memphis, Tennessee that was forgotten about over time and eventually became a church parking lot.
My second film Door Ajar – The M.B. Mayfield Story was about M.B Mayfield, a little-known African American painter from Ecru, Mississippi who would find a creative way to integrate himself into a segregated university system in order to get an art education in the 1950s.
But when I was shooting those documentaries, NMA Ocumentary was always on my mind. When the dust finally settled, I decided to work through a documentary style lens to humanize the characters.
The 14-minute short film is centered on a dysfunctional family who’re addicted to opioids, and a single mother and her ten-year-old daughter who is affected deeply by the Parkland school shooting of 2018.
The idea for the ocumentary was seeded in my home country. From New Zealand, I watched the harrowing events of the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, and the Charleston Church shooting in 2015 take place on the TV screen. And when I arrived in America, the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville in 2017 solidified my resolve to do something to help the situation, but hopefully in a way that didn’t appear opportunistic.
Ironically, on Monday, March 11, 2019, we began filming NMA Ocumentary in Oxford, Mississippi. On Thursday, March 14, after three days of filming with one left to go we began congratulating each on social media for a job well done. The next morning, we woke to the horrific news of the Christchurch Mosque massacre which happened in New Zealand. 50 innocent people were gunned down by a white supremacist.
As I dealt with grief, I wrestled with the idea of canning the film altogether as I found it ominous that I’d portrayed a character who resembled the Christchurch shooter. The similarities were too eerie to ignore. But I decided to push forward on this important yet delicate subject because a creative approach to a problem is better than backing off it altogether.
Because it’s a fly on the wall style film, I believe it humanizes all characters and allows us to view these kinds of situations in a more critical way. Before any shooting happens, there are crucial moments where an ideology takes root in someone’s head.
But ideology isn’t the only culprit here to blame. Mental illness also has a role to play in violent crimes such as mass shootings. Adding depression, psychopathy or addiction to hateful rhetoric becomes an extremely toxic mix. The deadly icing on the cake is the severe lack of access to mental healthcare.
Mass shootings have become so common that hearing the news is always just as heartbreaking but never that surprising anymore. But when it happened in New Zealand, there was suddenly the sense that this wasn’t merely an American phenomenon. It was a problem with worldwide reach.
NMA stands for “nothing matters anymore.” It’s the sentiment of a character in the future follow-up movie yet to be made, but also the zeitgeist that has stunted such an amazing country into political and emotional apathy. The problems presented in this short film are things that Americans have to face every day. And still, they find the courage to wake up and fight the good fight in the face of such bleak times.
I hope to keep meeting and working with such amazing people.
John Reyer Afamasaga