Director: Jessica Sanders
Topic: Tells the harrowing story of seven men released from prison after DNA testing proves them innocent.
Financing: Independent fund-raising by Sanders and co-producer Marc Simon; grants from the Pacific Pioneer Fund for Emerging Filmmakers and the Illinois Humanities Council; major financing from Showtime.
Budget: While Sanders won’t disclose a specific sum, she will allow that the budget is “definitely under a million dollars.”
Shooting format: DV camera with a DSR 500 camera.
Why it stands out: Portrays the heartbreaking loss of time these men experience while behind bars. Scott Hornoff, a police officer wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder, tears up as he thinks about it: “My oldest son was about 6½, and I always saw myself getting down on bended knee and him jumping in my arms when I was freed. Now my son’s 14 years old, 6 feet tall, 245 pounds. He was in the courtroom when I was freed, and he picked me up.”
Memorable scene: Wilton Dedge, a soft-spoken man serving a life sentence after being wrongfully convicted of sexual battery, assault and burglary, is finally freed after a long legal battle and 22 years behind bars, and embraces his elderly parents in the prison waiting room. The moment is joyous, haunting and unforgettable.
Distribution/broadcast status: Opened theatrically Oct. 21; has played in New York and Washington, D.C., and will open in four other cities before reaching L.A. on Jan. 13, followed by a 50-plus-city rollout; Showtime broadcast in spring.
On making the film: “The film is part of a larger campaign to create change,” says Sanders, who is screening “After Innocence” to state legislatures that don’t have compensation legislation for exonerees. “When guilty people are released, they get services such as housing, job placement and parole services. But when innocent people are released, they don’t get any of that because they’re essentially glitches in the system.
“The exonerees should be treated like heroes for surviving what they have.”