Review: Print It Black | DIFF 2024

Score: A

Director: ABC News

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Rated: NR

The year is still early, but I doubt there will be a documentary as urgent, powerful and personal as Print It Black. Last year's Oscar-winning 20 Days in Mariupol showed journalism at its most necessary and costly. And this hard-hitting portrait of the newspaper staff in Uvalde, Texas, is just as essential.

Though it's unfortunately gotten lost in America's seemingly endless array of mass shootings, the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary made the incident the third-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. And like every tragedy, it ripped a community apart before bringing them together. But as Print It Black shows, healing and justice are often slow, if they come at all.

With its small but dedicated staff, the Uvalde Leader-News is a shining example of a community paper. But while everyone who works there is affected by the shooting, crime reporter Kimberly Rubio has her life changed forever. Her 10-year-old daughter Lexi is among the victims. Losing a child is a pain I can't even imagine, and it forces her to step back from writing and pivot to activism. But change is hard to come by, even in a town that's experienced the deadly effects of gun violence firsthand.

If the doc had only focused on the day of and the months after, it would still be a harrowing, emotional, well-edited feature. But its ability go beyond makes it one of the best films of the year. Weeks after the national media vultures have left, the filmmakers explore the difficulty in rooting out the complacency and corruption that led to that fateful day. In the immediate aftermath, both the school district and local law enforcement stonewall the victims' families. Weeks later, a push to have the school district's police chief fired drags out because - surprise, surprise - he's well-liked in the community. After he's finally let go, further attempts at accountability are shrugged off. Families once hailed as heroes because of their strength are now rebranded as agitators, trying to open old wounds instead of "moving on." And trying to gather support for an assault weapons ban? Forget it, Kim. It's Texas.

I bawled multiple times during this screening, both with sadness and frustration. As Print It Black proves, inspired activism and keeping a local newspaper afloat are hard challenges, maybe even hopeless. But without them, what would we do?


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.