donald trump iowa rally shooting sot_00001002.jpg
donald trump iowa rally shooting sot_00001002.jpg
Now playing
00:48
Trump: I could shoot somebody and not lose voters
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein waits to be introduced prior to a press conference at the National Press Club August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein waits to be introduced prior to a press conference at the National Press Club August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
01:44
Jill Stein raises millions for recount
Former Democratic US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to staff and supporters at the New Yorker hotel after her defeat in the presidential election November 9, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Former Democratic US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to staff and supporters at the New Yorker hotel after her defeat in the presidential election November 9, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
Scientists urge Clinton to call for recount
LYNDEN, WA - MAY 07: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech during a rally at the The Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center on May 7, 2016 in Lynden, Washington. Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee following his landslide win in Indiana on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images)
Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
LYNDEN, WA - MAY 07: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech during a rally at the The Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center on May 7, 2016 in Lynden, Washington. Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee following his landslide win in Indiana on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:25
Donald Trump's wild ride
Now playing
01:46
Trump's challenges in the Middle East
donald trump undocumented immigrants crime fact check origwx ty_00013807.jpg
donald trump undocumented immigrants crime fact check origwx ty_00013807.jpg
Now playing
02:47
Fact checking Trump on crimes by immigrants
Mark Makela/Getty Images/Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Now playing
01:26
Trump vs. the tape on Obama and the protester
Now playing
01:28
Trump compares Clinton email probe to Watergate
Members of the Secret Service rush Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump off the stage at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/AP
Members of the Secret Service rush Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump off the stage at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Now playing
01:20
Donald Trump rushed off stage by Secret Service
AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:16
Trump reads letter from Patriot's coach at rally
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during rally at the Atkinson Country Club in Atkinson, New Hampshire on November 4, 2016.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during rally at the Atkinson Country Club in Atkinson, New Hampshire on November 4, 2016.
Now playing
01:56
Trump on US officials: 'What a group of losers'
donald trump nice and cool pensacola fl bts_00001523.jpg
donald trump nice and cool pensacola fl bts_00001523.jpg
Now playing
00:49
Trump's mantra in campaign's final week: Stay on point
donald trump nice to hillary clinton and democrats orig cm_00000000.jpg
donald trump nice to hillary clinton and democrats orig cm_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:52
Audio of Trump praising the Clintons and Democrats
cuomo lewandowski hillary clinton email exchange newday_00002327.jpg
cuomo lewandowski hillary clinton email exchange newday_00002327.jpg
Now playing
01:28
Cuomo grills Lewandowski on Clinton email 'hypocrisy'
Now playing
01:49
Meet the other Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Story highlights

A new documentary about the Newtown school shootings debuted at Sundance

The filmmakers addressed Donald Trump's recent comments about shooting people and not risking political support

Park City, Utah CNN —  

Donald Trump’s recent remarks that he could “shoot somebody” and not lose political support was an “insult” to communities struck by gun violence, according to the director of a powerful new documentary about the mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“It speaks to the insensitivity and the desensitization” surrounding the issue, Kim Snyder, whose film “Newtown” debuted here at the Sundance Film Festival, told CNN on Monday.

“Spending three years in and around Newtown with survivors in that community, you really do start to really understand the insult,” she continued, “and what it feels like when people are so cavalier in speaking about gun violence in such an insensitive and cavalier way.”

At a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday, Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Trump initially declined to respond to questions about what he said, but told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday he was “joking.”

RELATED: Trump’s shooting remarks

Hours after Trump made his initial comment, Snyder and “Newtown” producer Maria Cuomo Cole dined with former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. (Cuomo Cole is the sister of CNN “New Day” co-host Chris Cuomo.)

Giffords and Kelly were vocal about their disgust at what Trump said during the rally, Snyder and Cuomo Cole said. Gabby Giffords survived a gunshot wound to the head during a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011 and now works with her husband to promote gun safety legislation.

The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

For Snyder, who arrived in Newtown six weeks after a 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, had fatally wounded 20 first graders, six educators, and his mother on December 14, 2012, before turning one of his weapons on himself, the political nature of the film is inescapable.

“You can’t talk about Newtown,” she said, “without talking about the conversation of guns and gun reform in the country.”

The documentary, which debuted here on Sunday, weaves elements of that fight into the more deeply felt personal accounts provided by the parents of three of the youngest victims.

They come together in a searing April 2013 scene, following the Senate’s failure to agree on a compromise amendment that would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales. It is a particular blow for Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was among the youngest victims.

The vote, Snyder says, was “incredibly demoralizing and incredibly disappointing” to people like Barden, Nicole Hockley and David Wheeler.

All three lost sons and their struggle, both to advance gun safety law and manage their overwhelming grief, creates a gut-punch of a film.

“I have this need to know what he experienced,” Barden says in “Newtown,” explaining the dizzying grief that colors his days. He asks parents to contemplate trying “to interpret what your 7-year-old experienced as he’s being murdered in his first-grade classroom.”

“We’re all terrified of forgetting what he looked like or sounded like,” Wheeler confesses, speaking about his son Ben.

RELATED: The club no one wants to join

Like many of the parents interviewed, Wheeler’s thoughts drift toward the lonely hours, and “the tiny, minor questions that become huge questions when you can’t sleep at night.” That, he says, is what drives his activism.

But the film relies as much on silence, and what its subjects withhold or cannot yet bear to consider, as the details they choose to share.

A doctor on duty at a local hospital at the time of the shootings describes in detail what a bullet from an AR-15 rifle, the weapon used by Lanza, does to the body of a six- or seven-year-old child. But he does not speak about the one victim who made it to the emergency room before succumbing.

Two emergency responders begin to explain what they found at the scene, only to pull back.

State Police Sgt. William Cario was the first to enter, but he too demurs.

“I don’t think anyone needs to know specifically what we saw,” he says.

RELATED: U.S. gun violence: The story in charts and graphs