2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: CRIME AFTER CRIME

Continuing my film-by-film look at the documentaries of Sundance 2011 is US Documentary Competition title CRIME AFTER CRIME by Yoav Potash, an emotional five-year chronicle of justice long delayed for a battered woman pushed to murder.

Sundance Program Description:

In 1983, Deborah Peagler, a woman brutally abused by her boyfriend, was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for her connection to his murder. Twenty years later, as she languished in prison, a California law allowing incarcerated domestic-violence survivors to reopen their cases was passed. Enter a pair of rookie land-use attorneys convinced that with the incontrovertible evidence that existed, they could free Deborah in a matter of months. What they didn’t know was the depth of corruption and politically driven resistance they’d encounter, sending them down a nightmarish, bureaucratic rabbit hole of injustice.

The outrageous twists and turns in this consummately crafted saga are enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. Meanwhile, the spirit, fortitude, and love all three characters marshal in the face of this wrenching marathon is nothing short of miraculous. We fall in love with the remarkable triumvirate as they battle a warped criminal-justice system and test whether it’s beyond repair.

Some Background:
Director/Producer Yoav Potash has a history of tackling similar issues touching on justice and race in America, including the short documentaries LIFE ON THE INSIDE (women in prison) and CRIMINAL JUSTICE (racial profiling), and the longer works FROM THE GROUND UP (rebuilding burned-down African-American churches) and FOOD STAMPED (surviving on a food stamp budget). Serving as one of the film’s Associate Producers was the late Gail Dolgin, who was nominated for the Best Documentary Academy Award for DAUGHTER FROM DANANG, which also won the 2002 Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize, and dealt with mothers, daughters, and the legacy of violence and separation.

Why You Should Watch:
Deborah’s lawyers, and, as a result, Potash, craft a very compelling argument showing how justice has been abused in her case. Alternately inspirational, sad, and frustrating, CRIME AFTER CRIME successfully humanizes someone the California legal system simply declared a murderer, and lays bare the shortcomings of the justice system.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above. The film also has a website, including an email list sign-up, and a Facebook page to keep you updated on future screenings.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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