Directed by Ben Lear
82 min | 2016 | USA | Not Rated
*Post-film panel with Pam Vickrey, the Executive Director of the Utah Juvenile Defenders Attorneys and Utah Juvenile Defender Resource Center and Susan Burke, the Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS), moderated by Ron Gordon, the Executive Director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
Behind the walls of the “Compound,” LA’s most violent juvenile offenders await their trials. To their advocates, they’re kids. To the system, they’re adults. To their victims, they’re monsters.
To pass the time, three young offenders sign up for a screenwriting class and collaborate on a short film: Jarad, who was arrested at 16 and faces 200-years to life for four attempted murders; Juan, who was arrested at 16 and faces 90-to life for first-degree murder; and Antonio, who was arrested at 14 and faces 90-to life for two attempted murders. Each boy lost his innocence around age 12. That was the year Jarad watched his father try to kill himself, the year Juan’s brother jumped him into their gang in El Salvador, and the year Antonio became addicted to meth. These shared experiences, along with Juan’s unrequited love for his childhood friend, Abigail, form a narrative through-line for the boys’ short film.
Halfway through the class, Antonio returns to juvenile court and gets released with time served. Once back in his neighborhood, he quickly falls victim to the same environment and patterns that led to his incarceration in the first place. Meanwhile, the realities of Jarad and Juan’s crimes and pending trials set in. One of the victims of Jarad’s shooting is only 17 herself and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. The judge on his case fears he is a risk to public safety. Juan faces deportation even if he is eventually released and separation from his family, including his baby son.
Each new perspective challenges the viewer to reconcile the film’s central conflict—that Jarad, Juan and Antonio are violent criminals, but also kids. Do they deserve a second chance?
Official Selection: 2016 AFI Docs, 2016 LA Film Festival, 2016 Austin Film Festival
Presented in partnership with Division of Juvenile Justice Services.