In its observation of three pairs of imprisoned perpetrators and aggrieved victims meeting across a table, “Beyond Conviction” makes the case that reconciliation can be reached in even the gravest of cases. Though pic reps yet another example of the use of a three-story structure in a Yank docu, it records remarkable human moments and touches raw nerves. Human rights-themed and socially-concerned fests beckon, as do TV sales foreign and domestic.
Director Rachel Libert and editor Melissa Hacker make the arguable choice of presenting the most contentious of the stories first. Lyndy Kelley has chosen to participate in Pennsylvania’s victims-perpetrators mediation program, begun in 1998 (and conducted in only a handful of other states, including Texas and Ohio). She was raped in 1990 at age 20, an act that “ripped away” her innocence and triggered suicidal thoughts.
Her rapist’s words, “I hope I ruined your life” continue to haunt her, even as she’s pregnant at the time of lensing and building a family life. Pic’s ultra shocker is that her rapist is her brother, Timothy. Pennsylvania’s program aims for victim and victimizer to hear each other, and possibly regain a human connection. In this brutally emotional case, Lyndy and Timothy are finally able to hug, and, after being unable to even look at her for hours across the table, Timothy makes eye contact.
The following two cases aren’t remotely as powerful, but do demonstrate variations on the notion of reconciliation and what it means to be involved in a crime. Leatrice Floyd, whose son Seth was found dead in a jail cell in what was ruled a suicide, has long campaigned for a re-opening of the case. She meets here with Seth’s cellmate, Shawn L. Burton. After the meeting begins, Burton asks Libert and lenser Hope Hall to turn off their camera, at which point he apparently tells Floyd that her suspicions that Seth was killed in a case of gang-related revenge are true, and that he’s been complicit in a cover-up.
In the final episode, daughter Angela Alford confronts Angelo Barrett, who murdered her mother in 1987, when Angela was 4. Angela awaits an apology, and Angelo intends to satisfy her so “that she can go on with her life.”
After a surprisingly friendly first few minutes, the atmosphere grows tense, and Libert captures a complicated terrain of unresolved hatred. After Angela’s toughest question — “Why didn’t you just kill me, too?” — the pair eventually hugs, but whether reconciliation has happened is impossible to tell.
Pic would have gained greater power had it been lensed in grainy celluloid; video is much too clean and neat for such a starkly rough subject.