The Film

Synopsis

In 2012, California amended its “Three Strikes” law—one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” was underway. THE RETURN examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines—prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. At a moment of reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California’s experiment teach the nation?

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Awards

Filmmakers

Kelly Duane de la Vega

Director / Producer / Writer

Loteria founder DUANE DE LA VEGA‘s documentaries have screened at film festivals worldwide, opened theatrically and broadcast nationally on POV/PBS and the Documentary Channel. Her work has received the Writer’s Guild of America’s Best Documentary Screenplay Award, Gotham Independent Film’s Best Documentary Award, Tribeca Audience Award and multiple national Emmy nominations. Duane de la Vega’s film BETTER THIS WORLD won Best Documentary Feature at SFIF and Sarasota Film Festival, received an IDA Creative Achievement award and was selected to screen at NY MoMA’s documentary fortnight. MONUMENTAL screened at the Lincoln Center, was acquired by the Smithsonian for its permanent collection, EL POETA called “dramatic and inspiring” by the LA Times broadcast on PBS’s Voces. She has produced short format work for The New York Times, Mother Jones, IFC and Discovery, among others. A Sundance & HBO/Film Independent Fellow, she has guest lectured at various universities and taught Documentary Forms at UC Berkeley.

Katie Galloway

Director/Producer/Writer

Galloway’s films explore the intersections of institutional power, civil & human rights, and political activism — with a particular focus on the American justice system. In addition to THE RETURN, her recent work includes the critically acclaimed feature documentary EL POETA (PBS VOCES, 2015) – an examination of the international drug war through the eyes of Mexican poet turned international protest leader Javier Sicilia; ERIC & ANNA, a post-911 love story featuring a teen FBI informant and a question of entrapment (The Interept/Field of Vision, 2015); A RIDE HOME FROM PRISON, a brief meditation on what it means to “reenter” life outside prison after decades behind bars (NYT Op-Docs, 2015) and several short format series.  THE RETURN (2016, with Duane de la Vega) completes her triptych of feature length documentaries on the American criminal justice and mass incarceration systems for the acclaimed national independent film series P.O.V., which also broadcast BETTER THIS WORLD (2011, with Duane de la Vega) — the story of two young men charged with domestic terrorism and their relationship with a radical mentor and undercover FBI informant and PRISON TOWN, USA (2007, with Po Kutchins) which looks at the impact of the prison building boom on rural America. Prior to her work for POV Galloway produced and reported an award-winning trio of films on the justice system for PBS FRONTLINE including SNITCH, THE CASE FOR INNOCENCE and REQUIEM FOR FRANK LEE SMITH (2001). A two-time Sundance Fellow, HBO/Film Independent Documentary Fellow and recent Filmmaker in Residence at UC Berkeley Journalism School’s Investigative Reporting Program, Galloway has won the Writer’s Guild of America’s Best Documentary Screenplay Award, Gotham Independent’s Best Documentary Award, four national Emmy nominations, Best Documentary Awards at San Francisco International, Tribeca, Sarasota and other top film festivals. Galloway holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley with a focus on Political Behavior and Public Law and a M.S. in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has taught documentary production, history and theory at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and at UC Berkeley’s Department of Media Studies. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and four sons.

Ariella Ben-Dov

Producer

Ben-Dov is a documentary producer who has worked on a range of award-winning social justice documentaries, including Academy Award-winning director Debra Chasnoff’s THAT’S A FAMILY and the RESPECT FOR ALL film series. She is an internationally esteemed film curator who specializes in independent cinema across genres. As the director of the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, she integrated installations, multimedia performances and educational programs into the festival. Ben-Dov co-founded MadCat Women’s International Film Festival and served as its executive director and curator from 1996–2012. She has presented her programs at numerous venues around the globe, including the Harn Museum of Art, Harvard Film Archive, and Pacific Film Archive. Ben-Dov co-curated the 51st Flaherty Film Seminar, Creative Demolition. She has taken part in and moderated panels on alternative exhibition, documentary film and experimental filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival among other festivals and has been seated as a juror at festivals around the world.

Becky Korman

Co-Producer

BECKY KORMAN, Co-Producer, is a documentary film producer whose expertise spans television, short format and feature film. Becky Co-Produced EL POETA, which aired to a national public audience in 2015 on LPB’s VOCES, directed and produced by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway of Loteria Films. Her early credits include the first three seasons of the Emmy award winning Showtime series NURSE JACKIE starring Edie Falco. During her time in New York, Becky co-founded 177 Artist Residence under the artistic direction of Tony award winning Actor/ Director Eve Best and funded by The Old Vic Theater. Since relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012, Becky has worked nearly exclusively in documentary film and television. She produced several episodes for FOOD FORWARD, a nationally broadcasted PBS series. Currently she is producing THOSE THAT BREATHE, a documentary feature about Inuit people of the Western Arctic who fight for survival amidst the brutal impacts of climate change. The film is directed by acclaimed photojournalists Kitra Canaha and Ed Ou. Becky is committed to producing high caliber work for directors with impactful stories.

Anne Devereux-Mills

Executive Producer

Devereux-Mills is the Chief Strategy Officer of Lantern, a start-up that is using technology to bring mental wellness programs to people otherwise underserved by current options. Anne also founded Parlay House, a salon-style gathering of 600+ Bay-area women that fosters connection, experience and personal growth. She is a board member of BeyondZ and Marchex, a mentor for both Open a Door Foundation and the Aspen Institute, as well as a founder of the iHUG Foundation. An activist on issues related to social justice, Anne was a key member of the team that helped pass California’s Proposition 36, which brought fair sentencing to thousands of non-violent inmates as part of California’s Three Strikes reform. Earlier, Anne was the CEO of a number of healthcare marketing agencies in NYC. She is a Wellesley College alumna, the proud mother of two amazing daughters and a Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.

Mario Furloni

Director of Photography / Co-Producer

Furloni is a Brazilian filmmaker and cinematographer based in Oakland, California. He is the director of the documentary FIRST FRIDAY (co-director, N’Jeri Eaton.) Mario studied documentary filmmaking at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he was a Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow, and his documentary and journalism work has appeared on PBS, New York Times and TIME, among others. His film “Pot Country” (co-director, Kate McLean), won Best Documentary at the USA Short Film Festival (2012), was official selection at Hot Docs (2012), Big Sky (2011) and a national finalist for the 2012 Student Academy Awards. Most recently he shot the Sundance short “After My Garden Grows,” and he’s currently developing the narrative feature FREELAND, supported by IFP and SF Film Society.

Greg O’Toole

Editor

O’Toole is an award winning editor and director whose feature documentaries have screened at festivals around the world and broadcast on PBS, ESPN and others. Recent documentary features include AN HONEST LIAR (Tribeca 2014), AFTER TILLER (Sundance 2013), and BETTER THIS WORLD (SXSW/POV 2011.) THE RETURN marks his second collaboration with Loteria Films.

Tyler Strickland

Composer

Tyler Strickland is a film composer based in Los Angeles. Tyler’s scores have accompanied recent award-winning documentary films such as THE GENIUS OF MARIAN (Tribeca/POV 2013), Emmy-nominated, HOT GIRLS WANTED (Sundance 2015), FRESH DRESSED (Sundance 2015), AUDRIE & DAISY (Sundance 2016) BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS (SXSW 2016), and more.

Emily Verellen

Consulting Producer

Film Subjects

Kevin Bilal Chatman

Born in Los Angeles, Bilal Chatman moved to San Jose as a child with his single mother (a nurse) and three brothers. He went to high school and junior college there before beginning work in the logistics field. In the 1980’s when the economy crashed, Bilal lost his job and, when the crack epidemic hit, he got swept up in drug addiction and dealing. He ultimately received a 150 years-to-life sentence under California’s “Three Strikes” law for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer. In 2012, Californians overwhelmingly voted to amend “Three Strikes” and Bilal became eligible for release. He is currently the Logistics Supervisor for a major organization and oversees two campuses and 21 employees.  He has since married and was voted 2015 Employee of the Year at his second job with a major American sports team. As a member of THE RETURN PROJECT, he was featured on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and has been a panelist at a Capitol Hill Screening with Representative Elijah Cummings of Baltimore, and he continues to travel the country speaking about the effects of mass incarceration on communities and individuals across America.

Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth was sentenced to life in prison for a non-violent drug offense under California’s “Three Strikes” law. He was released after 14 years, in March 2013, after “Three Strikes” was amended. He currently lives in a re-entry home in Southern California and receives support from his ex-wife Monica Grier, his four grown children and their families.

Mike Romano

Mike is the director and co-founder of the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project (formerly Three Strikes Project). He has been recognized as one of the top lawyers in California and has published several scholarly and popular press articles on criminal law and sentencing in the United States. As counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Mr. Romano co-authored the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (“Proposition 36”) and Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act of 2014 (“Proposition 47”). His work has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Economist, and other outlets. He also maintains a small criminal appeals, post-conviction, and civil rights law practice in San Francisco. Mr. Romano was a John Knight Fellow at Yale Law School and graduated with honors from Stanford Law School in 2003. He clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Tallman.

Susan Champion

Susan Champion is an attorney and Fellow at Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project. For the past six years, she has been working with the Project on sentencing reform issues and assisted with the development, drafting, planning and implementation of the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (“Proposition 36”). She provides direct legal services to those serving lengthy sentences for nonserious/nonviolent crimes, and works with stakeholders and policy makers to address the disparities in our criminal justice system. Her first encounter with the Project was as a second-year Stanford law student, when she and her partner successfully petitioned for the early release of a third striker who was serving a life sentence for the theft of beer steins from a commercial storage unit. She has worked with the Project ever since.