One of the unfortunate distinguishing characteristics of the American justice system has been its insistence on criminalizing, rather than treating, mental illness.
Amid heightened scrutiny of police-community relations and deepening understanding of mental health issues including addiction, Jenifer McShane’s solution-focused documentary, “Ernie & Joe,” offers proof of an enlightened way forward.
Zeroing in on a unit of the San Antonio Police Department, the disarmingly titled film is a candid, mostly vérité portrait of two police officers in a small but paradigm-shifting program — one that breaks down the us-vs.-them mindset that views people with mental illness as offenders and too often, as in the news footage that opens the film, turns them into victims of police gunfire.
Weeks after “The Infiltrators,” a documentary exposing injustices at a South Florida for-profit immigration detention center, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Claudio Rojas— the film’s inside source— was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Florida during his annual visa check-in.
Records show Rojas remained detained at Krome Detention Center in South Miami-Dade as of Sunday. His attorneys say he was apprehended on Wednesday without cause and is now facing immediate deportation.
Rojas— an Argentine immigrant turned fiery activist who has made national headlines over the last decade — became a gold mine of information to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance after he was first detained by ICE in 2010 for overstaying his visa. He lives in Miramar, Florida with his wife and two adult children.
Filmmakers say the 53-year-old leaked the complex workings of the Broward Transitional Center, a for-profit institution that detained hundreds of immigrants without trial. The Broward facility serves as a holding space for impending deportations of immigrants who enter into the country illegally.
At the Sundance Film Festival in January, Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams premiered his first virtual reality (VR) documentary, “Traveling While Black.”
The 19-minute VR film takes viewers on a journey from the segregation of the 1950s to the police violence of today in an emotional 3D/360 degree experience.
The film was based on a 2010 play, “The Green Book,” which put a spotlight on America during the time of the Jim Crow laws.
The play was based on the Green Book, a real-life road trip survival handbook published in 1936, that gave travel tips to African-Americans to help them avoid racist and potentially life-threatening businesses along their journey.
“Traveling While Black” is set in one of the safe businesses listed in the Green Book, Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington D.C.
Groundbreaking “It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” is the first widely released documentary to be directed by men still incarcerated in a maximum security prison, but its innovative storytelling doesn’t stop there.
As the prisoners interview each other and come to terms with how they received decades-long sentences, their memories are depicted in animated sequences by Yoni Goodman of “Waltz With Bashir” fame.
Alternating roles in front of and behind the camera, the men of Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility study documentary filmmaking as they create their own autobiographical documentary.
The film was shot during the same production period as the fictional HBO film “O.G.” starring Jeffrey Wright. Also filmed at Pendleton, several of the incarcerated co-directors of “It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” were cast as first-time actors in “O.G.”
“It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It” is available now on HBO.
For roughly the first 50 minutes of “Parkland: Inside Building 12,” students and teachers recall last year’s attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in harrowing detail: who heard what and when, who hid where, which doors were locked, who was bleeding or killed.
Much of the second hour is then devoted to remembering the 17 dead, one by one. At the close, when Emma González is shown reciting their names at the March for Our Lives rally, we have a mental image of each person.
The documentary, directed by Charlie Minn, is unbearable to watch, yet its centering of first-person testimony — supplemented with floor plans of the building and phone footage from that day — makes the massacre immediate in a way that sometimes gets lost in news coverage or political debates.
As you watch the teacher Ernie Rospierski say he’s been avoiding thinking about could-haves and should-haves or hear descriptions of how precariously positioned the student Maddy Wilford was after being shot, it’s impossible to avoid the sense that their survival came down to chance. These could easily be other shootings or other survivors.