Directed by Rudy Valdez
Los Angeles Premiere at LALIFF 2018
By María Margarita López
On opening night of LALIFF, director Rudy Valdez took the audience on an emotional journey. The first time filmmaker’s feature debut, “The Sentence,” is a deeply personal documentary about his sister, Cindy Shank, and the impact a 15-year prison sentence had on her family; husband Adam and their three daughters, four-year-old Autumn, two-year-old Ava, and newborn Annalis.
The film begins with home movies that were made to record key moments so Cindy could see what she missed in her daughters’ lives while she was in federal prison. These moments turn into a story that resonates with thousands of families across the U.S. who are affected by “the girlfriend problem,” a term that refers to Reagan-era mandatory minimum sentencing laws that restricted the judge’s ability to use discretion in sentencing.
These laws resulted in harsher sentences for women who were convicted of conspiracy and imprisoned for crimes committed by their boyfriends. Between 1980 and 2014, the United States realized a 700 percent increase in the number of women behind bars, according to the non-profit The Sentencing Project, some of the data the filmmaker found during rigorous research. The minimum sentence was 15 years.
Cindy’s case was not unusual. For many women it did not matter to the courts if they’d turned their lives around. Cindy paid the price for her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes and the film takes her personal story and creates a window into broader issues including the effects of mass incarcerations, the prison industrial complex, and the hurdles involved in getting a sentence commuted.
In the hands of Valdez, the doc also delivers a story of love. It is moving to see how daughters miss a mother, and the lengths a family goes to in order to maintain ties across time and distance.
Director Valdez does not sugar coat difficult issues, but respects his subject’s willingness to participate. (No other director would have been able to achieve this level of trust from these subjects). His nieces’ raw emotions hit the audience with full force, as does the candor from the rest of his family. Valdez accomplishes much as a one-man crew, first starting to film with consumer-grade phones and cameras, then moving his way up to robust Canon equipment by the end of the decade.
Valdez’ evolution as a filmmaker parallels his growth as an advocate for his sister’s clemency. He organically informs the audience of the laws, policies and technicalities underlying his argument this is unjust sentencing. Neither Cindy nor the film makes excuses for why she is serving time, but the facts presented in this emotional story, and watching those girls grow up without their mother, calls into question if $64 billion a year on the warehousing of inmates under these laws is money wisely spent.
“The Sentence” will be released by HBO later this year.
María Margarita López is film producer and co-founder of AjuuaEntertainment. She is based in Los Angeles.
"Double Negative" by Michael Heizer Resti/Flikcr
FIELD NOTES: KNPR's State of Nevada speaks with Dana Goodyear about "The Earth Mover: Michael Heizer's vast desert sculpture nearly killed him. Now it's nearly complete," her elegant profile on Land Artist Michael Heizer for the August 29 issue of New Yorker magazine. In the interview Goodyear reminds us that Heizer's dedication to "City" and other works has not been child's play in the desert. "As strong as his relationships were, they weree often sacrificed to the sculpture itself." The writer spoke to Heizer when he was in New York and has been at "City" twice.
"Michael Heizer, The Earth Mover" KNPR State Of Nevada
BACK TO SCHOOL: Erin Cosgrove’s Urfathrer Adams has eyes on a UNLV history of photography class at the Marjorie Barrick Museum. It is the first week of the 2016 fall semester and the current exhibition, FIVE, closes September 10. The gallery was quickly put to use as an art laboratory. It helps to hear about the work, and it becomes a refresher how to rethink art works, said Lauren Vaccaro, a senior majoring in Art History. “It’s also good to hear how others interpret art.”
The Las Vegas artist who did the life-size, nude statues of Trump says more will be created. He owns the mold. I Las Vegas Review Journal
SAVED MURAL: In Los Angeles, Yreina Cervantez's ‘La Ofrenda’ (1990) has been restored I SPARC
TACO PARTY: Frankly, Trump's presidential campaign can easily prompted a weekly Link + Ink dedicated to all the commentary. Below are just two from the current batch responding to Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump who warned that mobile food is a threat from an "imposing" culture I NYTimes
“In the days when black-and-white photography reigned, professional colorists took on the task of creating technicolor views by meticulously painting pictures by hand.” From "When Photographs Were Colored By Hand" via Hyperallergic.
It's about time. Robert Williams, founder of Juxtapoz Magazine, has a solo show. It will be in his hometown in New Mexico, at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Sante Fe.
No beard for Bard? Shakespeare's portrait to be cleaned. May cost the playwright his facial hair, reports Daily Mail
Frieze ends its five-part series "looking back at the most significant exhibitions from the past 25 years"
Vulture sent comedian Eric André to the streets to critique New York City's public art.
Artsy offers four walking tours of New York's public art organized by neighborhood.
The NYTimes plans to kill regional art coverage.
3D is Banksy, says investigative journalist Craig Williams, who tracked a fw patterns. He makes a compelling argument that Robert “3D” Del Naja, the founding member of Massive Attack, is the elusive graffiti artist Banksy. I Daily Telegraph
Greg Gossel "I Need You!" Silkscreen ink, enamel, acrylic, and collage on canvas 65" x 57"
Arts Writer Liz Ohanesian on Corey Helford Gallery's 10th-anniversary show in Los Angeles. "It isn't a typical gallery exhibit. Think of this more like a museum exhibition, a mazelike journey through a cavernous space filled with an almost overwhelming amount of art." The show runs until September 24 I LA Weekly
Arts Council Malta is the government agency that uses street art as a teaching point, reports the NYTimes. "Most cities around the world denounce, or grudgingly tolerate, painting on public property. But on the Mediterranean island of Malta, the process is encouraged." I NYTimes
"Smartly focused and radically open-ended, the exhibition brings together a fascinating mass of data that incites — and inspires — visitors to think for themselves," writes David Pagel in "Imaginative show at the Center for Land Use Interpretation looks at how we memorialize our presidents" at the LA Times.
“Galleries find me on Instagram,” says artist Dan Lam. “They reach out to me and they ask to be a part of shows. It’s crazy. Like, you know there’s all these books out with information about how artist can make it or whatever and it doesn’t even touch on how Instagram needs to be a very crucial part of your strategy.” Art and Seek
Tony Hsieh hesitated during early negotiations for Big Rig Jig, according to a report by Kristy Totten in the Las Vegas Weekly one year ago. "Then he received this email, allegedly written by Banksy: 'I feel strongly Big Rig Jig is probably the first sculptural masterpiece of the post-industrial age and we want to exhibit it accordingly. Importance is measured in influence, and you can never be sure, but I’m confident in 20 years time Big Rig Jig will be cited by a whole new generation of artists as a touchstone in modern sculpture. It should be in every textbook of art history that covers this age and this won’t happen from photos at Burning Man alone.' "
Above: "Blue Angel: Between Heaven and Earth" at The Neon Museum's Ne10studio.