What inspired you to write Compassionate Release?

My uncle was released from prison into hospice care.  Double dose of suffering. From a cage to death’s door where he died a month later.   He was not a hard core criminal.  Petty.  Sold marijuana on the streets to survive.   I do not dispute that a criminal act was committed.  However, when my uncle became terminally ill, the option for Compassionate Release was not even considered.  


We are a large and loving family and were all ready to escort him for the final transition.  In the end, it's all about forgiveness and closure.  Families of inmates are like any other families dealing with imminent loss.  They wish to provide support and solace to their loved ones.  


My mission is to shed light on the concept of Compassionate Release.  Not only do I want to honor my uncle’s memory but I want to remind those in authority that  empathy and humanity are the highest principles of an honorable life.  

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As an independent filmmaker, how were you able to film at the same location as Ava Duvernay?

It was truly a blessing. The Arthur Kill Facility is the same prison, where my grandmother took me to visit my uncle. I was a little girl then. Located at the southern tip of Staten Island, we took a ferry then a long bus ride to get there.  


Back then, the facility seemed so much larger with a big red door at the entrance...an image still emblazoned on my mind.  When I was scouting for a location for the film, the image came back to me.  When you think of it, a big red door is evocative of a giant Stop sign.  Sort of emblematic of the reality that life as you know it stops when you go to prison. 


I called the NYC Mayor's Media & Entertainment Office to scout locations and Arthur Kill was on the list.  When I went to visit, I found that the location fee was out of reach for an independent filmmaker such as myself.  Then, one of the owners of Broadway Stages, the production company that owns that facility took a peek at the script and agreed to a lower fee.  All the forces aligned. 

Is it true that, Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” is in the film’s soundtrack?

Yes. Mr. Dylan’s music was heavily influenced by numerous black artists. And, it was my mother’s recommendation to use the song.  She was at the Rolling Thunder Revue benefit concert for Hurricane Carter in Madison Square Garden in the mid-70s and saw Bob Dylan as the ultimate rebel and "Bad Boy" because he flipped the bird at the Establishment and elevated protest songs to national attention.  But it was not until, I stumbled upon Nina Simone’s cover of  "I Shall Be Released," that I knew the song was the right one. The perfect fit. 

Your Cinematographer is also a female. Was that intentional?

Yes, because there are so few female cinematographers and I believed Michelle Clementine was the best to visually interpret this social justice message.  We worked together beautifully.  

AS A FILMMAKER, what's next for you ?

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The feature, "Bull Street", set in Silver, South Carolina. 

My Grandmother's birthplace.

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