Gabby Giffords Won’t Back DownThe story behind ‘, the new documentary by Julie Cohen and Betsy West tells how Gabby Giffords, former Arizona Congresswoman, was gunned in the head as part of an attempted assassination. She then recovered her mind and body.
TIME spoke with Cohen and West, who have also co-directed documentaries on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Julia Child, about their new film, which tracks Giffords’ long road to recovery and journey to become an advocate for gun reform.
TIME: In the pantheon of inspirational women you’ve made films about—RBG, Julia Child, Pauli Murray—have you noticed that they all have anything in common?
Cohen: The four documentary subjects shared some common traits. They all share intelligence, ambition and a determination not to lose heart no matter the odds. Also, we think it’s worth noting that all four had supportive, loving partners and all were huge fans of music and the arts.
Gabby is unique
Gabby Giffords is West’s bright, friendly smile. She is a classic “people person” who finds ways to communicate with everyone she meets despite her challenge with the language disability aphasia. She loves hugs, gestures, and well-chosen words. As her stepdaughter Claudia says, “Gabby is able to communicate with her touch and her love. It’s a gift.”
Continue reading: Gabby Giffords – The Great Lesson From Our Small Progress on Guns
Did you know that there were many mass shootings during the production of this film?
Cohen: Cohen: The Gun Violence Archive Matching Data with the 20-months we Worked on Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,During the production of the movie, there were approximately 1,100 mass shootings across the U.S. [The Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter.]This is a profound statement.
Gabby, her staff and others remain positive that America will change its gun control policies.
West: Gabby West takes a long-term view of addressing the problem of gun violence in America. After the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012, Gabby started her anti gun violence organization. She helped to build an American movement for sensible gun laws. Gabby is a gunowner and has succeeded in appealing to NRA members as well gun owners, to get red flag laws passed at the state level. Gabby, along with others, helped to pass the federal gun restriction bill last month. This was nearly 30 years after many years of effort. It was a modest reform, but having closed the “boyfriend loophole,“ and won the issue of universal background checks for 18-21 year olds, Gabby is optimistic about extending the background check protection to the whole population.
Gabby is an amazing singer, especially when she sings show tunes. Was the crew ever invited to join?
Cohen: We did! Quite often, in fact. Gabby was the first to sing. It’s kind of irresistible. The most memorable occasion was following the filming of a scene where Gabby is riding her recumbent bike around her Tucson neighborhood listening to a mix from Siriux XM’s “’80s on 8.” When we’d finished the scene and were back in her driveway, Gabby asked us all what OurMy favorite song was. Betsy mentioned the Beatles and Gabby, followed by the directors, producers, cinematographers, sound people and drone operator, burst into an impromptu, joyful rendition of “Eight Days a Week.”
Gabby Giffords Won’t Back DownTIME Studios presents “The Greatest Showman” in partnership with IMAX.
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