It was Oct. 8, 1984, and Americans across the country were glued to their television sets for the premiere of "The Burning Bed." The made-for-TV movie starred Farrah Fawcett, everyone's favorite pinup girl, as a battered wife who kills her husband by burning him alive after suffering years of brutal abuse.
Based on a true story, "The Burning Bed" was an instant hit. Over 30 million households tuned in, making the drama more popular than that year’s World Series final game. Suddenly, domestic violence -- long considered a private matter that should be kept behind closed doors -- was being discussed out in the open.
"I felt the story was important and, at that point, not one we had ever seen before," said Robert Greenwald, who directed the movie. "Groups around the country used the film to mobilize and to take this issue out of the closet."
These days, Greenwald is no longer making Hollywood blockbusters, and is better known for his work as a liberal documentary filmmaker. In the past decade, he’s taken on the political influence of the Koch brothers, Walmart’s treatment of low wage workers, and how the Bush administration misled Americans on the Iraq war.
Now, thirty years after directing "The Burning Bed," he’s returning to the subject of domestic violence.
In his newest documentary, "Making A Killing: Guns, Greed & The NRA," Greenwald investigates how the lucrative firearms industry and the NRA are putting people's lives in danger by opposing common sense gun reform -- all in the name of turning a profit.
"The NRA is a lobbyist for the gun companies, and there's a significant profit motive at stake," he said. "All of us are in greater physical danger because of this."
The film pivots around five stories of gun violence: mass shootings, unintentional shootings, suicides, the impact of gun trafficking and domestic violence shootings.
As Greenwald rightly recognizes, it's difficult to properly illustrate the impact of gun violence on Americans without grappling with domestic abuse.
To start, the majority of mass shootings in the U.S., defined as those in which four or more people are killed, are related to domestic violence.
More often than not, when a woman is fatally shot in this country, the person wielding the firearm is someone she dated or married. Most women who die in gun homicides in the U.S. are killed by intimate partners or other family members. A U.S. woman is fatally shot by a romantic partner or ex every 16 hours, according to a recent analysis.
For every woman who is gunned down in a domestic violence homicide, countless others are seriously injured in non-fatal shootings.
One such survivor is Kate Ranta, a Florida woman featured in the film who police say was shot twice by her estranged husband in 2012. Her father was also shot multiple times, and her son William, who had just turned 4, was present in the room when the bullets began to fly.
"One day, over a year after I left him, he showed up unannounced at my new apartment while my father was visiting me. I could feel something was off and frantically tried to lock the door. He pulled out a gun... and shot me twice," she told The Huffington Post. "One bullet exploded my hand. The other went through my left breast, just missing my heart. My father was also shot twice. My son witnessed the whole thing."
Her ex has yet to stand trial.
“"Why should anybody who's been an abuser ever have access to a gun?”
In an especially emotional scene in "Making A Killing," Ranta's son recalls begging his father not to shoot his mother. Ranta said William now suffers from PTSD and anxiety.
Greenwald said that William's testimony had a profound impact on him.
"I've filmed drone survivors in Pakistan, I've filmed in Afghanistan. ... There was something about Will's talking that had me just choking up," Greenwald said. "You feel the depth of the experience on this child, who is going to hold it forever as part of him."
Greenwald said that when it comes to public perceptions of domestic violence, the country has come far since "The Burning Bed" premiered.
"People accept it's a substantive problem, which I don't believe they did before," he said, "It was more like some horrible, disgusting version of she asked for it."
Yet, when it comes to guns, he said, there's still plenty of progress left to make.
"There are many who are not taking sufficient steps to take guns away from abusers, and some of that goes back to the legislators, to the morally and financially corrupt elected officials," Greenwald said. "Women are getting killed and shot. Why should anybody who's been an abuser ever have access to a gun?"
He said he hopes that the film will inspire people from all across the country to get involved in the anti-gun violence movement.
"The NRA are doing enormous damage to so many people's lives around the country in the interest of a very, very small group of people's greed, and money and ideology," he said. "I hope and I sincerely believe that the tide is shifting."
"Making A Killing" will premiere the week of March 14th in cities throughout the country -- and be available to use for free for local screenings and house parties. To sign-up to screen the film, visit Brave New Films.
- This Is Not A Love Story: Examining A Month Of Deadly Domestic Violence In America
- A Dangerous Loophole In Federal Law Is Putting Women's Lives At Risk
- Why Didn't You Just Leave? Six Domestic Violence Survivors Explain Why It's Never That Simple
- It’s Time We Listen When Women Say Their Boyfriends Are Dangerous
- This Is How A Domestic Violence Victim Falls Through The Cracks
- Men Offer Abhorrent Excuses For Killing Women. Don't Repeat Them.
- We're Missing The Big Picture On Mass Shootings
- A Legal Loophole May Have Cost This Woman Her Life