Recently, Deborah Peagler's daughter Natasha and I had the opportunity to join New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg as she visited a maximum security prison to assess the problem of incarcerated victims of abuse in her state. I brought a camera and a crew along, and through Free From Abuse, we'll be producing a mini-documentary about that visit in order to help boost awareness of this issue. So, the long story short is that Free From Abuse is about transforming this activity from a movie to a movement.
JB: Sounds fabulous, Can't wait to see the film as a "Hollywood drama". You've racked up tremendous reviews and numerous awards for Crime After Crime. I don't believe it's currently in the theatres. How would someone go about seeing it, Yoav?
YP: They can order a DVD from crimeaftercrime.com , or access the film through Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, or just about any other DVD or video streaming platform. We highly encourage film festivals, community centers, houses of worship, legal associations, law schools, high schools, domestic violence agencies, and all kinds of other organizations to show the film to large audiences. The individuals featured in the film and I still travel all over the country to participate in Q&A's with the film. I'm very proud that one of the ways the film has been used is as a centerpiece to events that raise funds to support domestic violence shelters. Information about how to do this is at crimeaftercrime.com, and organizations interested in obtaining screening rights or arranging to bring in special guests for a screening event can contact us through the site.
JB: To that point, Joshua Safran, one of the lawyers and "stars' of Crime After Crime, will be in the Chicago area this week*, speaking at various events about domestic violence. I'm looking forward to hearing him and getting more ideas on how to raise awareness on this issue. This documentary was picked up by OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Wonderful publicity. How did that come about?
YP: I went to the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, a year before completing Crime After Crime, in hopes that we would premiere the film there a year later. I attended a panel discussion and one of the presenters was from OWN, which wasn't even on the air yet. I approached him after the talk, and he told me that a company called ro*co films was helping OWN curate their documentaries, and fortunately for me, ro*co was based in the Bay Area, where I'm based. So I began a sort of courtship with ro*co - I invited them to a very special sneak preview screening we held in San Francisco in February 2010, and then when we learned in November of that year that we did in fact get into Sundance 2011, I followed up with ro*co again, and by that point they had been talking up the documentary to the folks at OWN. Finally, after we showed the film at Sundance and received standing ovations at every screening, OWN made an offer. Another network also made an offer, but I chose OWN based on the attention that Oprah was promising to bring to her documentaries.
JB: Good call! As was mentioned, your documentary has garnered many awards from all kinds of organizations and venues. Was there one that was particularly gratifying or meaningful?
YP: I'm fortunate enough to be able to say that many of the awards were very meaningful. I received a phone call from Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow, to tell me that we'd won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, so that was pretty amazing and it was great to hear how she had been moved and inspired by the film, and I was able to tell her how I had been moved and inspired by her husband.
When the National Board of Review gave us their Freedom of Expression Award, we were being recognized right alongside some of the biggest names in film, including George Clooney, Martin Scorsese, Viola Davis, and so many other talented individuals, so that was really special. Rosie O'Donnell introduced me and my award in a speech that had everyone dying with laughter, and afterwards my wife and I met George Clooney and took a photo with him, so my wife is kind of forever indebted to me for that. Seth Rogen was there too, so I spoke with him about my dream of adapting Crime After Crime into a dramatic feature and I was like "You should play Joshua Safran, you'd be perfect for it," and he looked at the DVD and said "Hey, he does kinda look like me." So we'll see if I'm able to circle back with him once we're actually ready to make the movie.
at National Board of Review Awards with wife Shira and George Clooney by collection of Yoav Potash
Similarly, the Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism was a huge honor and their event at the New York Times Center was another star-studded affair, but more with prominent activist types like Danny Glover, Tom Morello, and some of the best journalists working in print and photography today. So it was an honor to share the stage with them and to have the chance to tell that audience about the impact the film has had.
The film was also so warmly received at many film festivals - we received both the Audience Award and the Investigative Documentary Prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, which was a wonderful homecoming for the film, and we received the Grand Prize and the Audience Award at the Heartland Film Festival, which is a festival where they literally roll out the red carpet for the filmmakers, and their enthusiasm for you and your films is truly heartwarming.
And then there have been awards from non-film organizations like the California Women's Law Center and the National Center on Crime and Delinquency, and to me those are very meaningful because that kind of recognition shows that the film has made an impact with the people working on these issues in real life, and that the film is a useful tool for them in educating others and creating dialogue.
JB: And that's only a small portion of the awards that you and the film have received. Before we wrap this up, Yoav, what haven't we talked about yet?
YP: I guess the last thing I would say is that while this film addresses domestic violence and wrongful incarceration, people may be surprised to discover that watching it is actually uplifting and inspiring on several levels. This is especially true when Joshua or other people from the film are present to speak with the audience. I think, thanks to the nature of the people in the film and the love that they demonstrate through their actions, this is actually a film full of hope and humanity.