MFLA 2019: A night with Vivian Miranda and MSD’s Dara Hass
During BC’s 5th annual MFLA celebration of the arts, students and faculty were invited to a special screening of the short film “The Classroom” on the evening of March 20 at BC’s South Campus.
Hosted by film faculty member Professor James Eimmerman, the event consisted of the film’s screening and a special Q&A with the film’s award-winning director, Vivian Miranda, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High teacher and survivor Dara Hass.
The 15-min. short depicts the dynamics of twelve female students during a shooting at their school. Throughout the screening, the audience watched, riveted, as the events of the film unfolded, some even jolting and gasping in surprise during key moments.
Afterward, the ending was met with unanimous applause.
Student Paula Tello was impacted by the screening. “It was interesting because it’s a film that is still very relevant with what happened last year at Stoneman Douglas,” she said. “It personally connected with my emotions. I felt the pressure and the fear.”
After the film, Miranda and Hass took to the stage to answer questions from everyone and give their personal insight.
Regarding the short, Miranda explained that it was originally released in 2014, with the project being her thesis film. The inspiration behind it influenced the eventual plot.
“What I couldn’t get out of my mind was the Sandy Hook shooting, which happened a year earlier,” she said. “I don’t know if I’d ever cried so much while reading news articles. When it came time to do my film, I kept going back to that.”
On her part, Hass acknowledged the parallels between “The Classroom” and what occurred on Feb. 14, 2018 at MSD. She calmly relayed her recollections of that tragic day.
“I was in my fourth-period class teaching English Honors. We were the first classroom that was shot into. I figured out by the end of the day that we were the warning shots for everybody else,” she stated.
The three “pops” Hass heard triggered the start of an agonizing reality for her and all who were on campus that day. Eight of Hass’ students were shot, while three succumbed to their injuries. The Parkland shooting became the deadliest U.S. high school massacre in history.
Regarding the safety precaution measures at MSD, Hass said, “We had training. ‘Code Red’ is what we call it. But you can’t really plan for chaos in real life.”
Many elements of the film held glaring similarities to what Hass witnessed.
“My students did kind of what the girls did in the movie,” she said. “They helped each other, they hugged, they held hands. There was also the factor of not knowing whether you should let someone in if they’re at the door, just like in the film.”
Hass said the tragedy gave her a new perspective on life. She continues to teach and advocate on behalf of her peers at MSD. She also regularly sees a therapist, explaining that it will take years to process what she experienced that day.
Since “The Classroom,” Miranda has gone on to work on other projects and is currently working on her first unnamed feature movie. But she admits that people have suggested she work “The Classroom” into a feature film.
“I made this project five years ago and the shootings keep resurfacing in real life,” she said. “I feel like I told the story I wanted to tell but I think now I’m more focused on prevention and spotting the warning signs.”
And there is at least one takeaway Miranda wants viewers to receive from the film. “Be mindful of one another as people,” she stated.
At the panel’s closing, both Miranda and Hass received commemorations marking the occasion from Prof. Eimmerman and the organizing faculty, which they gratefully accepted.
The MFLA series is an acronym that stands for music, film, literature and arts. The week-long celebration features special panels, live poetry, screenings and workshops. It is held annually and planned months in advance for the entertainment of BC students and faculty.
Photo: From left to right, Marjory Stoneman Douglas teacher Dara Hass and “The Classroom” director Vivian Miranda. Anabel Sanchez/The Observer.