Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down follows the former Arizona congresswoman and her fight to recover from an assassination attempt.
I spent my Election Day watching the most recent documentary from filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West. While the film feels appropriate for the day, it’s certainly not the type that will calm one’s election anxieties. There are other films for that. That I’m watching this film within two weeks of someone targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks to our nation’s current problems with political violence. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in an assassination attempt in late 2011–two days before set was set to undergo IVF in hopes of getting pregnant. One day and all of her life plans changed in an instant. And yet, the US still has a gun problem. As the film was being finalized before SXSW, there were a few more school shootings!
What followed the attempt on her life–aside from her recovery–is Giffords became an activist against gun violence. There are some somber moments in the film especially when Betsy West and Julie Cohen focus on the Sandy Hook shooting. No matter how many times I watch that coverage or see President Barack Obama trying to console the nation, there will be tears. It’s been ten years and the nation has yet to solve its gun violence problem. Nobody will forget how the NRA’S Wayne LaPierre came out and said that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Tell this to the families in Uvalde! What does it say when law enforcement just stands by and does nothing?!? But I digress.
As a result of the shooting, Giffords was diagnosed with aphasia. Aphasia is a brain condition that impacts the ability to communicate. Over ten years later, sitting down for an interview is work as it involves lots of practice beforehand. The same condition is what forced Bruce Willis to retire from acting.
Giffords married then-astronaut Mark Kelly after meeting in Vancouver. Both of them had to constantly travel between work and home. As such, it was quite the long-distance marriage. While the main focus remains on Giffords, Cohen and West give us a brief background on Mark Kelly’s life before meeting Gabby. Prior to Cohen and West signing onto direct the film, Kelly had been filming Giffords during her recovery efforts. When you look at some of Cohen and West’s recent documentaries, there’s almost always a strong romance in the film.
Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down is a profile in resilience and another solid documentary from Julie Cohen and Betsy West. The film is current available to rent through digital retailers and will be available to watch on CNN later this month on November 20, 2022.
DIRECTORS: Julie Cohen & Betsy West
FEATURING: Gabby Giffords, Senator Mark Kelly, Dr. Dong Kim, Angie Glynn, Ron Barber, Representative James E. Clyburn, President Barack Obama, Gloria Giffords, Daniel Hernandez, Suzi Hileman, Sergeant Charles Garcia, Claudia Kelly, Claire Kelly, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Howard Fischer, Stephanie Innes, Fabi Hirsch, Peter Ambler, Senator Chris Murphy, Representative Val Demings, Sage Sundman, Mark Sundman, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron
Briarcliff Entertainment released Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down in theaters on July 15, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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