National Coalition to

Abolish the Death Penalty

90 million Americans believe the death penalty is wrong. We mobilize them to end the death penalty state by state.
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Interview with Filmmaker Will Francome

Francome’s recent documentaries have investigated capital punishment more in depth. In 2013, he and Mark Pizzey experimented with a new form of documentary filmmaking that combined cross-country road-tripping with social media. In One for Ten, Francome and Pizzey traveled the country in their RV “Tina” and produced a series of short-films with individuals who had once been on death row until they were exonerated, usually by DNA evidence. The title refers to the fact that roughly one in ten individuals on death row is innocent. The duo meet the exonerees on their home turf—resulting in a trip from Ohio to Louisiana to New Mexico. In each vignette, the profiled exoneree addresses the faulty aspect of the criminal justice system that brought about their wrongful convictions. For example, Delbert Tibbs, who spent two years on death row, discusses witness misidentification while Gary Drinkard, who spent six, discusses poor public defense council. Francome turned to his Twitter followers for questions for the interviewees. He also provided his viewers with quick turnaround; he and Pizzey edited the interview footage on their way to the next destination. You can view their project here: http://oneforten.com/ .

Now, Francome and Pizzey are again teaming up on the film The Penalty, a ninety-minute film that is currently screening in select locations. Each individual in The Penalty has a different relationship to the death penalty, but for all of them it is a tremendous source of grief. Damon Thibodeaux, who appeared in One for Ten, served fifteen years on death row in Louisiana after giving police officers a false confession in 1997. In The Penalty, Thibodeaux discusses his life since being released, including his criminal justice activism. The directors also shadows Darlene Farah, whose daughter was murdered in Jacksonville during a 2013 robbery. As the county prosecutor pursues the death penalty for the assailant, Farah and her children’s lives get embroiled in the protracted legal procedure. Finally, Francome and Pizzey travel to Columbus to talk to Allen Bohnert, a public defender whose latest client, Dennis McGuire, is executed with an untested combination of chemicals. Francome told me that originally The Penalty would consist heavily of interviews with academic experts. Then he and Pizzey realized that they could tell just as powerful a story with perspectives from Thibodeaux, Farah, and Bohnert.

This year Francome is once again traveling the United States in order to promote this film. They just finished a tour in Ohio and soon they will head for Alaska, Florida and Louisiana. Each state tour will center around a local criminal justice shortcoming, allowing the audience to take action immediately after the credits roll. In Florida, for example, the screenings will raise awareness for a state court ruling that a trial that results in a death sentence must be retried if the decision is not unanimous among jurors. This ruling will result in prolonged legal proceedings. By blending social justice filmmaking with taking action, Francome and Pizzey have pioneered a new form of activism that enables you, the viewer, to propel the death penalty abolition movement forward in 2018. You can find a screening near you here: http://www.thepenaltyfilm.com/screenings/.

The NCADP will be screening ten minutes of the film during our upcoming April Webinar. Register Here: https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238473655/93e67c79be

-- Nathan Steinberg 

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