A coming-of-age story of a boy who wants to become a man, Arman Cole‘s film Small Arms explores the negative impacts of masculinity, gun culture, and mental health in an era that sees gun violence all too often. The film follows Ethan, who is anonymously bullied on campus and therefore seeks out shooting lessons from a reclusive ex-militia member in an effort to prove his manhood.
A wonderful social study in itself, Cole’s film illustrates the implications created by the pressure to “be a man” and how they are detrimental to growing up as a young man in a global culture that has disproved of weakness. The seed planted in his character’s mind therefore has him looking to purchase a gun for all of the wrong reasons. While the themes addressed in Small Arms also dive into mental health issues coupled with conservative paranoia, as seen in Ethan’s co-star, the film doesn’t condemn guns, but rather the people who shouldn’t be allowed to use them.
The premise of Small Arms was inspired by the Isla Vista shootings in 2014 where a 22-year-old male motivated by sexual frustration and entitlement toward the opposite sex, killed 6 people and injured 14 others. Cole was attending grad school at University of Southern California at the time and like many Californians, was utterly shaken by the implications of the crime. Cole became interested in how the pressures of masculinity in society could cause insecurity and ultimately transform into violent acts.
Strikingly, Small Arms features very likeable characters who are easy to relate to and sympathize with. Poor mental health is not a black and white issue and Cole’s characters illustrate that fact very delicately. More interesting still, Small Arms was made before the 2016 election and the recent rise in awareness of alt-right groups. It has not escaped him that the film is being released in the wake of the Parkland shooting and a renewed push for gun-control measures, and he hopes that the film will add to the ensuing national conversation about guns and mental health while also addressing the relationship between masculinity and violence.
Having completed Small Arms, Cole is currently in the early stages of developing a feature film and we can’t wait to see it!