Elephant is a 2003 drama film edited, written, and directed by Gus Van Sant. It takes place in the fictional Watt High School, in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and chronicles the events surrounding a school shooting, based in part on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. The film begins a short time before the shooting occurs, following the lives of several characters both in and out of school, who are unaware of what is about to unfold. The film stars mostly new or non-professional actors, including John Robinson, Alex Frost, and Eric Deulen.
Elephant is the second film in Van Sant's "Death Trilogy" — the first being Gerry (2002) and the third being Last Days (2005) — in which all three are based on actual events.
Elephant was generally acclaimed by critics and received the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. As the first high-profile movie to depict a high school shooting since Columbine, the film was controversial for its subject matter and possible influence on teenage copy-cats.
The film opens with Mr. McFarland (Timothy Bottoms) driving erratically down a residential street on the way to drop off his son, John (John Robinson). John notices damage to the car and