The fact that in a nation that prides itself on a history of freedom, that extolls the principle of justice, has the largest population of prisoners of any country is reason enough to pause and consider: How did this happen? Why was this allowed to happen? What is the impact? Is this necessary? At what cost of human capital and resources? Is this the best way to spend our country’s treasures? What can we do about it? And many more . . .
The films screened during the ten days of this festival will inspire, and horrify, uplift, and anger . . . as a nation we have allowed our criminal justice system, our laws, our police enforcement and our system of punishment to become the dominant form of “correction.” These films will help answer the questions we posed above, and critically, show us a better way.
Congratulations to the producers, directors, actors, illustrators, and the rest of the teams that created the 32 films that were accepted to be part of the (In)Justice for All Film Festival!
2016 FESTIVAL FILMS
Director: Saman Hosseinuor
This short (really short) film comes under the category of “whimsy.” Saman’s film drives home the humanity of us all, especially our children, as a soccer match and a haircut collide with unanticipated results.
Afraid of Dark
Director: Maya B.
Afraid of Dark is a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about Black men. Why are people so afraid of black men? This documentary aims to destroy the misconceptions and stereotypes about black men that have often cost black men their lives by offering a genuine look at them, revealing their beauty in diversified strength, leadership, and challenges. By examining two of the most prevalent stereotypes about the black man as the brute and as the Mandingo, we are led on a journey of understanding how the fear of these stereotypes has contributed to the rates of violence and incarceration of black men. From interviews of black men who span the spectrum of age and background, we see the dichotomy of their personal reflections, and how society perceives black men.
Among The Discarded
Director: Trent Dion Soto
On his 44th birthday, artist Trent Dion Soto voluntarily joined the homeless population on L.A.’s notorious Skid Row for 30 days, in an attempt to foster positive change upon the community. Trent’s goal was total immersion, as he wanted to live as they did, with zero outside assistance. To accomplish this, Trent only brought basic toiletries, art supplies, and his trusty GoPro camera to capture the experience. Through Trent’s eyes and personal interactions you will experience first-hand, the cheers, tears, struggles, and dangers of the homeless epidemic via this raw, emotional expose.
Director: Matthew Pillischer
The project began as a way to explore, educate about, and advocate change around the overcrowding of the Philadelphia county jail system. The documentary has come to focus on mass incarceration across the nation and the intersection of race and poverty within criminal justice.
Carrots, Crown & Rollerblades
Director: Jean-Louis Pêcheur
A young king had a dog for a best friend, until one fateful day a hot dog van came speeding down the street . . . If this doesn’t sound like a film on (In)Justice, well, that’s because it left out the totalitarianism, the militarism, and the vegetarianism.
Cast the First Stone
Directors: Jonathan Stack and Nicolas Cuellar
Down a long and lonely road, our story unfolds in one of the oldest and largest prisons in the U.S. The prison is set along the banks of the Mississippi River on land that has witnessed as much pain and misery as anywhere. First, as a Native American burial ground, and then as a slave plantation. A breeding ground for slaves up to the Civil War and a home to prisoners ever since, Angola Prison is a world unto itself.
In May of 2012, seventy-five inmates at Angola Prison and Louisiana Correctional Institution for Women came together to put on the performance of their lives. Over the course of three days, before an audience of a thousand free people, these inmate actors performed the Passion of Christ in perhaps the largest theatrical event ever staged in a prison.
Directors: Olivier Lambert & Thomas Salva
“Don't build prisons, they cost too much!” In this era of Great Recession, the conservative and tough-on-crime state of Texas takes an unprecedented path by becoming a social justice leader with programs that rehabilitate offenders. Looks like rape, abuse, and death are no longer parts of the solution for the modern-day Bonnie and Clyde.
Children of the Light
Director: Dawn Engle
This the first film to tell the life story of Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, one of the fathers of modern day South Africa. With extensive archival footage, family photos, and never before seen interviews, Children of the Light is a personal look into the legacy of one of the greatest peacemakers of our time.
Director: Kelly Amis
This film examines the evolution of Oakland through the eyes of social entrepreneurs who are determined that youth of color not be left on the sidelines as Silicon Valley spreads across the Bay and into the home of the second largest black community in California. Kalimah Priforce, whose first success as a social justice rebel was a hunger strike at the age of eight to get books for his group home, and Kimberly Bryant, a successful electrical engineer turned founder of Black Girls Code, are organizing large-scale hackathons to prepare youth to redesign the future through the power of digital coding. Joined on the national stage by #YesWeCode founder Van Jones, their work represents the cusp of a movement to change both the face and use of technology in America. But is Silicon Valley ready to be hacked?
Dostoevsky Behind Bars
Director: Marc Kornblatt
When university students meet with prison inmates to discuss literature, there is no guarantee that they will redeem anyone's soul. Still, a spirit of hope, if not grace, hovers in the air when the two groups come together.
Eloïse, Little Dreamer
Director: Myriam L. Obin
This creative animation manages to bring voice to a day of celebration in the streets of the city; everyone is wearing masks and making noise. However, a little girl discovers things are not what they appear to be. The peaceful protest is soon disrupted by an aggressive police action.
Eye of the Storm
Director: S. Kramer Herzog
S. Kramer Herzog's Eye of the Storm takes a harshly real view of the media and the circus that it can create. The documentary was shot during the hours leading up to the 2005 execution of Crips founder, Stanley "Tookie" Williams, at San Quentin State Prison. During that fracas which was caught on film, anti-execution demonstrators tried to shout down a Fox News broadcast. When the news team tried to re-establish its position, the demonstrators shouted louder, claiming Fox was interfering with their freedom of speech. The showdown escalated from just a shouting match to shoving and hitting.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners
Director: Shola Lynch
Angela Davis, icon of the Black Power Movement, is chronicled is this story. From a young college professor, this films documents how her social activism implicates her in a botched kidnapping attempt that ends with a shootout, four dead, and her name on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. Lynch's film leaves no stone unturned as it explores every remarkable detail of Davis' life, and allows her to tell her own stories through a series of intimate interviews.
From Prisons to Prisons
Director: Steve Patry
Every month in Quebec, hundreds of detainees gain their freedom after serving their sentences. What happens to these detainees once released? And what freedom do they find on the other side of the bars?
God Loves Uganda
Director: Roger Ross Williams
This feature-length documentary, God Loves Uganda, is a powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.
I Believe in Me: Fighting for Trans Rights in Prison
Director: Leslie Von Pless
In this short documentary, Donisha McShan, on the day of her release from state custody, tells her story of finding her voice and standing up for her right to be treated as a woman.
In God We Trust
Director: Elefterios Zacharopoulos
Once upon a time, at the end of the day, a full subway, an insane desire to already be at home. How many people have left like that, at one time or another? You? Me? Or the heroine of our story, who returns home exhausted from her day.
Another short synopsis: “A brother can’t get a break in France either.” Very well done film with great pace, great acting, and an all too real story line.
In His Own Home
Director: Malini Johar Schueller
Heavily armed officers of the University of Florida police department in Gainesville, Florida, responding to a 911 call from a neighbor who heard screams, break into the campus apartment of Ghanaian graduate student, Kofi Adu-Brempong. Within a minute of entry, they shoot the unarmed man in the face. A man who, because of childhood polio, needed a cane to walk, and had been suffering from mental illness, now has severe facial injuries, and is charged with resisting arrest.
This is the story of a young man, disabled and suffering from mental illness, that is shot in his own home by a militarized police force.
Director: Catherine van Campen
Joan is a committed, warm-hearted social worker and psychotherapist who works with derailed teenagers. Most of her “kids” are boys from ethnic minorities who ran into trouble with the police for reasons varying from skipping class and shoplifting to robberies and abuse.
In the documentary, Joan’s Boys, we see her efforts to help two of these kids – 15 year old twins Alaa and Adil from a Moroccan family– to get back on track. The twins drop out of school, play violent video games all day, and fight among each other about who can hold the PlayStation controller. In the midst of the heat they accidentally hit their mother, who is knocked out to the floor. The boys are placed in custody.
Can Joan save her boys by playing on their conscience? Or is her “soft” approach doomed to fail, as one of her personal friends thinks? And what about Joan herself? Does her work with these kids replace her own unfulfilled child wish?
Last Day of Freedom
Directors: Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman
This is a beautiful work of animation that brings this incredible story to life.
When Bill realizes his brother Manny has committed a crime he agonizes over his decision- should he call the police? Last Day of Freedom, a richly animated personal narrative, tells the story of Bill’s decision to stand by his brother in the face of war, crime, and capital punishment.
Not Without Us
Director: Sam Avery
Not Without Us is a film deconstructing the complex issues at the heart of one of the most harmful and prevalent forms of discrimination in America - the chronic abuse and stigmatization of people labeled mentally ill. Watch what happens when this group of people, often portrayed as a problem to be solved by society, bands together to stand up for their rights by redefining the nature of the problem and reclaiming their status as integral members of society.
Out of Focus
Directors: Adrián Arce & Antonio Zirión
This is a collaborative documentary about arts, culture, and everyday life inside a prison for minors. It was shot during a photography and video workshop with young inmates at the Juvenile Community for Specialized Treatment in San Fernando, Mexico City.
Director: Gary Sherman
In the cavernous basement of Cook County Jail, the largest jail in the U.S., a 25,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen is being born. Inspired and spearheaded by Italian Chef Bruno Abate, in this space a groundbreaking project, that is changing lives and will continue to blossom outside these barbed-wire topped walls, is taking place. Abate generously instills dignity and pride in these inmates as he teaches them the finer skills of culinary arts, including preparation, production, and service of food and gives them a reason and a chance not to come back here.
Serving Time is an amazing canvas for portraits of inmates who are gaining skills that could guarantee good jobs and a new beginning, with new attitudes, upon their release.
We will be showing portions of the not yet completed project.
Sin Frontera (Without Boundary)
Director: Iz Gutierrez
Inspired by factual events that happened to real people... Monica and Gabriel are an engaged couple on the verge of a relationship breakdown when they are unexpectedly torn apart by an unjust law and controversial government practice. After Gabriel is deported to a dangerous city, they both remember how they fell in love and make a vow to rekindle their romance in order to prevail over a corrupted and complex government policy. They discover a way to reunite through an unconventional method. Love will transcend any boundary.
A Record of Faith
Director: Kendra Arsenault
This is a short documentary about a former drug addict, who found salvation while staying at Elmwood state prison on drug related charges. After her release, she had a miraculous transformation of character where, at the age of 54, she obtained her very first job and began to give back to the community working with the developmentally disabled with recovery centers such as Teen Challenge. However, her life takes a drastic turn when she learns that she has to go back to prison two years later as a result of the federal government seeking to prosecute her for the same crime that landed her in Elmwood. The story is a record of her faith as she copes with the sudden change of events and what this change will mean for her life.
Director: Yahya Ghobadi
A young girl’s birthday. A gift from her parents. A war is that is demolishing her city.
This dramatic animation delivers a powerful statement.
The 13th Step
Director: Monica Richardson
This feature-length documentary exposes the secret, long-hidden truth about the world’s most famous alcohol recovery group: the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. It explores a little-known aspect of A.A.’s benign image: in the past few decades, the worldwide group has become a haven for sexual predators and violent criminals. Like abusive priests in the Catholic church, and pedophiles in the Boy Scouts, A.A., too, has attracted convicted sex offenders who are protected by an institution formed to help some of society’s most vulnerable people: problem drinkers, people trying to change their lives. What exactly goes on in those meetings?
Filmmaker Monica Richardson, a leader in protecting vulnerable members who left A.A., after 36 years, has used her unprecedented access to members, leadership and victims to gain unforgettable footage that documents the horrific abuse that occurs within rogue A.A. groups, and how they continue their destructive practices to the present day. This film shows, for the first time, the deadly 13th Step that must be stopped before more children are molested, young men abused, and women are raped and killed.
The End of the Night Stick
Directors: Peter Kuttner, Cyndi Moran &
America's eyes were opened to police brutality when officers of the L.A.P.D. were videotaped viciously beating Rodney King. But for 20 years in Chicago, the press and authorities turned deaf ears to allegations of brutal interrogations and torture by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. Was this simply an aberration or an extreme example of a system-wide policy of racist abuse? As victims speak out, this film investigates charges of institutional racism, violence, and cover-up. It also tells the story of a resistance movement, as local activist groups, including the Task Force to Confront Police Violence, refuse to let testimonies of police violence remain buried.
Directors: Anne de Mare & Kirsten Kelly
Three homeless teenagers brave Chicago winters, the pressures of high school, and life alone on the streets to build a brighter future. Against all odds, these kids defy stereotypes as they create new, surprising definitions of home. Can they recover from the traumas of abandonment and homelessness and build the future they dream of?
The Little Match Girl
Director: Kyoko Yamashita
She is just a child who struggles to survive in the concrete jungle. She was born unwanted, survives in the infamous way and she will die rejected being the way she is - Indigent, dirty, and uneducated. This story is not about crime and punishment, nor about winners and losers. And it is not about villains and their little victim. This modern version from the classic tale by Hans C. Andersen is about human nature and its weakness. It is about all of us.
The Other F Word
Director: Isabel Bleim
What does forgiveness really mean? Is it always essential? Or is it sometimes unnecessary, even impossible, to attain?
This documentary explores the meaning of forgiveness and examines its impact on our relationships and our sense of justice. Through personal stories of forgiveness sought, forgiveness found, and forgiveness withheld, the film provides insight into the universal nature of transgressions, and questions whether any of us are truly able to “turn the other cheek.”
The Price of Honor
Directors: Xoel Pamos & Neena Nejad
This documentary is about the murders of Amina and Sarah Said, teenage sisters from Lewisville, Texas, who were killed in a premeditated “honor killing” in 2008. The film shows the lives of the sisters and the path to their eventual murders by their own father, Yaser Said, who fled the crime scene and remains on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
Director: Meryl Goldsmith
Audrey Edmunds, mother of three, spent 11 years in prison for killing a baby she never harmed. And she is not alone. What happens when widely-held beliefs based on junk science lead to the convictions of innocent people? The Syndrome is an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the U.S., is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist.
Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with award-winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused, and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted. The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” It unflinchingly identifies those who have built careers and profited from this theory along with revealing their shocking pasts. Shaken baby proponents are determined to silence their critics while an unthinkable number of lives are ruined.
Umudugudu! Rwanda 20 years on
Director: Giordano Cossu
Rwanda, twenty years on: former genocide killers and survivors live together once again in former or newly built umudugudus (villages). Haunted by their past and fearing an uncertain future, how is life together, when your neighbor is the one who killed your family?
A thought-provoking and enlightening documentary about the struggle to rebuild life in the hills of Rwanda.
Producer: California Newsreel
This acclaimed documentary series is used by thousands of organizations around the country to tackle the root causes of our alarming socio-economic and racial inequities in health. The series crisscrosses the nation, uncovering startling new findings that suggest there is much more to our health than bad habits, health care, or unlucky genes. The social circumstances in which we are born, live, and work can actually get under our skin and disrupt our physiology as much as germs and viruses.
But why? How can class and racism disrupt our physiology? Through what channels might inequities in housing, wealthy, jobs, and education, along with a lack of power and control over one's life, translate into bad health? What is it about our poor neighborhoods, especially neglected neighborhoods of color that is so deadly? How are the behavioral choices we make (such as diet and exercise) constrained by the choices we have?
What World Do You Live In?
Director: Rebecca Garrett
A collaborative video and activism project between long-time community filmmaker Rebecca Garrett and Sanctuary, a church community drop-in, evolves into an unflinching documentary immersion into the world of police and security guard violence against people who are poor, homeless, and racialized in Toronto.
“We have to stop calling the police,” says activist, Anna Willats. And the message resonates in dozens of stories collected by street pastor Doug Johnson Hatlem. Stunning testimony, images, and commentary are woven together with unique video of police assaults and previously unreleased footage from inside the 2010 G20 detention centre.
Conflict erupts over nonviolent responses to overwhelming police impunity. Meanwhile, the increasing militarization of public spaces forces us all to ask: What World Do You Live In?
Director: Llew Smith
PTSD isn’t only about combat vets and survivors of natural disasters. Too many of our children, especially children of color living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, show the effects of unrelenting structural racism, street violence, domestic instability, and other adversities. And their symptoms look a lot like post-traumatic stress disorder. Except, for many, there is no “post.”