THE PUSHOUTS explores the remarkable story of Victor Rios’s evolution from school pushout and gang member to UC professor, author and thought leader on the school-to-prison pipeline via three narrative threads. Archival footage of Rios and key mentors from the cutting room floor of the 1994 PBS FRONTLINE film SCHOOL COLORS combines with original vérité of Rios's summer in Watts after his former mentor calls on him to work with 40 pushout youth. A series of cinematic vignettes from Rios's life further builds upon his story with in-depth audio interviews and evocative cinematography and sound design.
In 2012, California voters amended the state’s Three Strikes Law – one of the harshest criminal sentencing laws in the nation. The landmark passage of Proposition 36 constituted the first time in history that U.S. citizens voted to shorten sentences of the currently incarcerated. Within days the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” – men and women once expecting to die in prison – was underway. THE RETURN weaves together narratives of characters on the front lines of this unprecedented shift: prisoners suddenly freed, families reunited, attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. These stories yield an illuminating meta-narrative of an unfolding and historic reform, exploring what it can teach a nation reckoning with mass incarceration.
After his only son is murdered – collateral damage in the Mexican drug war – a mystic poet becomes a modern-day Odysseus, launching an international crusade to save his country before returning to his hometown. EL POETA reinterprets the “hard news” horror story of the Mexican drug war as a deeply personal, poetic and even hopeful one, tracing Javier Sicilia’s path from poet and father to movement leader and international symbol of grief and redemption.
EL POETA is a co-production of Latino Public Broadcasting and was supported by the Angelica Foundation, BRITDOC, ITVS, and the Berkeley Film Foundation.
Better This World
How did two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas, wind up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? BETTER THIS WORLD follows the journey of David McKay (22) and Bradley Crowder (23) from political neophytes to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with a radical activist mentor in the six months leading up to their arrests.
A dramatic story of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal, BETTER THIS WORLD goes to the heart of the War on Terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.
Prison Town, USA
In the 1990s, at the height of the prison-building boom, a prison opened in rural America every 15 days. PRISON TOWN, USA tells the story of Susanville, California, one small town that tries to resuscitate its economy by building a prison — with unanticipated consequences. Weaving the stories of a laid-off mill worker turned guard, a struggling dairy owner and an inmate's family stranded in Susanville, the film sheds light on an industry that is transforming the social and economic landscape of rural America.
A co-production with the Independent Television Service (ITVS).