Director Rudy Valdez’s sister, Cindy, a married mother of three young girls, long ago left a drug-dealing ex. Despite this, she receives a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under conspiracy charges related to his crimes. Over a period of ten years, Rudy’s camera captures the moments in his nieces’ lives that Cindy is missing. This personal portrait of the devastating impact of draconian laws on families was an Audience Award winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Read more with Rudy below, and see THE SENTENCE on Fri, June 22 at 2pm and Sat, June 23 at 10:30am!
NFF: This film is obviously very personal to you - did you have any reservations about laying yourself and your family's story bare?
RUDY: The film is very personal. I certainly had reservations about telling such an intimate story, but ultimately felt like I would be doing my family a disservice if I didn’t share. To me, this was only going to remain a terrible event in my family's history if we allowed it to be. I wanted so much to make something good out of this. I promised my family that I wouldn’t let this be in vain.
NFF: Did making the film change your relationship to your sister (or your family at large)?
RUDY: The film did not change our relationship - what you see on screen is what you get.
NFF: What would you want to tell audiences who want to get involved in a prison reform campaign or conversation?
RUDY: When audiences ask how they can get involved I often say pay attention to what you are voting for. Read between the lines when people starting using rhetoric like “soft on crime” or “hard on crime”. With that said, I also ask people that are moved by the film - that feel like this is a call to action for them - to fight! There are so many people in prison with stories just like my sister. They don’t all have someone on the outside fighting for them. Find someone and fight for them.
NFF: Did you face any particular challenges or surprises when filming/assembling the film?
NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?
RUDY: I’m excited to screen and Nantucket because as a documentary filmmaker we often work in a vacuum. Wondering if what we are making is going to resonate. If it’s going to be seen at all. To be invited to such a wonderful film festival is an honor, and I can’t wait to share the story and see what the audience takes away from it.