New film about the McDonald’s massacre opens in San Diego

Chris Anthony, Staff Writer

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The lives of 21 people were taken away in 1984, when a killer opened fire inside a McDonald’s in San Ysidro. In the powerful and shocking documentary, “77 Minutes,” victims of the historically tragic McDonald’s massacre share what it was like to be there when many people were fatally shot. Police explain why it took 77 minutes to take down one shooter, despite there being 175 law enforcement officers present. The film is directed by Charlie Minn, whose most recent films include “49 Angels” and “Mexico’s Bravest Man.” In a Q&A last Thursday, Minn declared that it could be his best film. Also present at the Q&A was Adriana Wright, who lost her young nephew and sister who was pregnant at the time.
“77 Minutes” is definitely not recommended for anybody who has a weak stomach. However, the film successfully gives an inside look into the humanistic thoughts and emotions endured by those affected by the massacre. The documentary does not spare any of the gory details and definitely does not hold back when it comes to shock value. Throughout much of the film, graphic police video footage of the aftermath is played, showing just how horrific the shooting actually was; people of all ages, even young children and babies, lifeless and soaked in blood on the floor.
Images of bodies and gore might seem typical of any documentary about a massacre, but what sets this apart from other films is that the director chose not to even say the shooters name. Minn gave his reason for this on the website for the film, saying “Most people become familiar with the killer through the media, when there is no use for this knowledge in society… If the killer knew going in that their name wouldn’t be mentioned, I believe there would be fewer murders of innocent people in our country.”
Omitting the shooters name shifted the tone of the film, and let it focus on the heartbreaking and heroic stories that many people have never heard about that day. One survivor named Albert Leos who was only 16 at the time, was able to crawl to safety despite being shot multiple times and is now a police captain for the San Diego Police Department. Another survivor in the film, Maricela Flores, lost her eye and had to give her baby daughter, who was also shot, to a stranger so they could both survive. The baby lived after she was given to a police officer who then rushed her to the hospital.
One hot topic nowadays is gun control, which was brought up by an audience member at the Q&A who asked, “Are you trying to convince people that maybe there should be more gun laws, or not?”
Minn responded quickly saying that, “We don’t get into gun control at all in this film, not at all, cause that’s gonna start arguments, and that’s gonna take the focus away from the victims.”
When discussing how the victims would perceive the film, in particular Wright who was beside him, Minn said, “I’m very nervous right now, Adriana told me this will either break her or make her heal.” Wright was present later that night for a showing in San Ysidro, and after seeing the film said that she got closure and was ready to move on.
For the perspective of the police, some of the interviews include the first and second responding officers, the sniper who shot the killer, and even former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who was commander of the SWAT team at the time of the massacre. It is revealed that at least one officer besides the sniper did have a clear shot but did not act. Also, towards the end of the film when asked, “How does one look at this?” in regards to the lack of police interference, Sanders answered saying, “Bad sh-t happens and that’s it.”
“77 Minutes” is currently playing now until Sept. 29 at the Ultra Star Mission Valley theatre, also known as Hazard Center. The film could run longer, depending on ticket sales. More information can be found on the “77 minutes” film website.

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