I am giving this space to my friend and fellow advocate, Mary Ellen Johnson. Mary Ellen just took a trip to DC for the opening of this very special film. Here is her report.
Just returned from the world premiere of LOST FOR LIFE in Washington D.C. Joshua Rofé has been working on LOST FOR LIFE for 4 years and began with a shoestring budget. You would never know from the quality of the 75 minute film. Masterful. Powerful. And controversial.
LOST FOR LIFE doesn’t have any easy answers but it does ask the question, COULD YOU FORGIVE? The film starts with Brian Draper, who along with fellow Idaho 16-year-old, stabbed to death a 16-year-old student. The teens filmed pre and post murders.
Extremely brutal and difficult to watch.
But Joshua Rofé is not really interested in the details of the crime or issues like direct file, brain development, etc. Instead he focuses on the personal – the teens who commit the crimes, whether they give more than lip service to remorse, and to their families. Who takes responsibility? Who is in denial? Does it matter when a death is involved, particularly a death as brutal as that of Cassie Jo Stoddart, whether the killer is remorseful or simply in denial?
Josh never directly intrudes himself in the film, but rather lets the story speak for itself. We see the death of loved ones through the eyes of two different victims, Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, whose web site with its domain name “teenkillers.org,” succinctly states her position, and Sharletta Evans, who has not only embraced forgiveness of the killers who took the life of her three-year-old son, but asks that other young lifers be given a “first chance.”
Colorado is well represented, in addition to Idaho, though the issue is a national one with more than 2000 serving mandatory life sentences. The other young prisoners featured are Colorado lifers, Josiah Ivy and Jacob Ind. It is interesting to contrast Jacob Ind’s reflections after 20 years inside with those of Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik. Those teens have been imprisoned for 5 years and are now only 21. (Brian and Torey illustrate very clearly the truth about brain development and maturity. Re-visit in 10 years. The responses, the level of self-reflection, will be very different.) Sean Taylor, whose sentence was commuted by Governor Bill Ritter, shows that redemption is possible, and that those who kill can honor their victim by living a life of service. May never be enough, but some strive to honor the life they took the best way they know how, whether inside or outside prison.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional. Thus, LOST FOR LIFE and this issue will remain relevant for years to come.
Mary Ellen Johnson
Here is Josh’s website, which includes a link to first trailer, press kit, and more: http://www.snagfilms.com/lostforlife/
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