Country: United States
Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg
Topic: Despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime, Darryl Hunt, a 19-year-old black man, was tried and convicted of the rape and murder of a white woman in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a sensational 1984 case. The film chronicles his 20-year legal fight for freedom.
Financing: Initial shoots in 1994 were self-financed; in 2004, grants from the Independent Feature Project helped jumpstart production along with monies from the New York State Council for the Arts and the Sundance Documentary Fund. Finishing funds came from HBO.
Shooting format: News and archival footage came in multiple formats including VHS; 1994 footage was captured via 16mm film; starting in 2004, the filmmakers used mini-DV.
Why it stands out: Eleven years in the making, this docu carefully details the biased case against Hunt and sets it evocatively against the backdrop of racism in Winston-Salem. Hunt’s quiet courage and dignity stands out throughout his ordeal.
Memorable scene: In 1994, during a judicial hearing, DNA evidence is presented that clearly exonerates Hunt from the rape conviction, but the judge rules against him and denies his request for a new trial. The air and justice go out of the courtroom.
Distribution status: Early 2007 release is skedded via ThinkFilm. HBO broadcast is planned for April.
On the making of the film: “As he and his attorneys had difficulty in courts, gaining validity, similarly we had to re-energize each other and keep the faith,” Stern says. “We knew we had a great story, we knew there was potential, but did not know how it would turn out.”
Adds Sundberg: “Although it’s a criminal justice story, it’s also a story of commitment and the best example of what can happen when people remain committed to each other.”