LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A filmmaker hopes her documentary about a 15-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a classmate in Oxnard five years ago will open up a discussion about bullying in communities around the country.
“Valentine Road,” which will be shown on HBO throughout October as part of National Bullying Prevention Month, tells the story of Lawrence King, who was shot in the head at E.O. Green Junior High School by 14-year-old Brandon McInerney. Green had told his friends that he was gay and started wearing makeup and heels to class.
“I was really shocked and angry about it. Here’s this child who was exploring his gender identity, his gender expression, bi-racial, really finding himself, and he was killed for that,” said director Marta Cunningham.
Cunningham, a writer and mother of two, had no direct connection to the tragedy, but was moved by the loss of life and also by McInerney, who was tried as an adult.
“When I sat in that courtroom the first day in October, I just saw a kid. I saw a kid who was in over his head and a child. I had empathy for him. And I was shocked by that empathy,” she said.
The 90-minute documentary explores gun violence, bullying, LGBT issues and juvenile justice.
“‘Valentine Road’ is a journey into acceptance, forgiveness and ultimately, it’s a call to action,” said Cunningham, whose team also decided to include tough images of the murder weapon and the interrogation in the film.
“We really wanted you to go through the experience that these 8th grade students went through that day,” she said. “We wanted you to sit in that classroom with them and see what they witnessed. It was really important that you felt the loss of a human being.”
KCAL9’s Serene Branson reported that Lawrence King’s father said the ordeal has taken a toll on him and he would not be watching the documentary.