The Most Disturbing Movie On HBO

At less than 15 minutes long, the featurette, “One, Two, Three, Eyes On Me,” left a mark I can’t erase.

HBO Movies — 1, 2, 3, All Eyes On Me

A few weeks ago, I watched a movie that was one of the most disturbing movies I have ever watched on HBO.

So disturbing, as a matter of fact, that I relayed this to several friends and even warned them to be prepared to be disturbed. The movie is less than 15 minutes long. There is not a drop of blood or graphic violence depicted. Yet, it made such a mark on me that I had to warn them what was ahead. That movie is One, Two, Three, All Eyes On Me.

The story is about a fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Leena, portrayed by actress Farelle Walker, who goes through the daily paces of elementary school teachers; working on art projects, refereeing disputes between students, etc. The day starts normal enough, with the children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

As the students are working on an art project (painting portraits of each other), Ms. Leena steps out of the classroom to speak with one of the students who was having a difficult time working with another student. While Ms. Leena was talking to her student outside the building, she noticed a teenager marking an X on the outside portable classroom. She calls it in (I am assuming security), but they tell her to call back. But when she returned to class, an alarm went off, and Ms. Leena instructed the students to go under their desks. Ms. Leena tells them to turn their phones off (yes, 4th graders), and one of the girls reassures her friend, “It’s ok, my dad is coming.”

HBO Movies — 1, 2, 3, All Eyes On Me

Meanwhile, Ms. Leena is peering out of the window. Automatic gunfire is coming out of the portable, and children are screaming while gun smoke billows out the door. When the shooters exited the portable and made their way to the main building, Ms. Leena had to evacuate her class to the same portable where the shooter had already killed the other students. She instructed her students to keep their eyes closed, so they do not see their dead classmates, Ms. Leena started a headcount, and to her horror, one of the students was left behind. The sounds of gunfire can be heard coming from the classroom she had just evacuated. Ms. Leena weeps. Fade to black.

I did not know or hear anything about this featurette until I watched it. As a parent and grandparent, this movie disturbed me. This disturbing little movie was out of my system after a few days. That is until the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde thrust this movie back to the front of my mind. Just as in the film, the Uvalde students mainly were Mexican American. Ms. Leena is African American. The shooters, though only shown at a distance, seemed to be two white teenagers.

Emil Gallardo, the co-writer and director of the movie, stated, “From the very beginning, making 1, 2, 3, All Eyes On Me has always felt bigger than me. It just felt like a movie that was needed to help create empathy and drive change.” Gallardo admitted that making the movie was a heart-wrenching, difficult subject. But he felt that this anti-gun violence film was essential to make.

“Sadly, in our world today, one hundred percent of students have been through active shooter drills in their schools. When I was in school, we had earthquake drills and fire drills we weren’t rained for active shooter drills. As adults, we don’t fully understand. That’s why it’s extremely important that people watch this so they can feel what this is like without having to actually be in this situation, and they can take everything that they felt and push for actual world change.”

One, Two Three, Eyes on Me, was one of the winners of the Latinx Short Film Competition HBO partnered with the Latino Film and Arts Festival two years in a row to support culturally inclusive films and filmmakers representing true American diversity. Good idea.

However, I am not optimistic that this movie or the actual shootings will lead to meaningful change. When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, twenty first-grade students were killed, along with six adults, four teachers, and the principal. Newtown, Connecticut, where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, is a republican town. Over 94% of its residents are white, with 1% African Americans and 2% Hispanic or Latino. The median family income is over 109K. None of that was enough to spark a significant movement for gun safety laws.

The Sandy Hook deaths were not enough to change gun laws significantly. Instead, it introduced conspiracy theories and lies that somehow even made it to mainstream politics. According to the gun lobby people, the Sandy Hook school shootings were a government plot to take the guns out of the hands of gun lovers. Some people in prominent positions even said that the incident never happened.

This featurette may as well be a documentary. The subject matter: innocent children being mowed down by people barely past the age of the kids they are killing is not entertaining. This violence is genuine and very close to us. Too close! Since this movie is so close to actual events, it is not for entertainment; it is more like a public service announcement about a disturbing trend in America. It reminds us that if we wait for politicians to do something, we will wait a long time. If you are waiting for that one mass shooting to change things for the better, I am afraid it would have to be a school shooting that kills literally everyone in the school; teachers, students, administrators, and food workers. But even if that happens, I am not sure that would represent our society hitting rock bottom. We must ask ourselves, where is the bottom?

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Thomas Holt Russell

Thomas Holt Russell

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Humanist, educator, writer, photographer, and modern-day Luddite. http://thomasholtrussell.zenfolio.com/ My writing is a living organism.