By J.R. Jamison, Co-Founder & President, The Facing Project—
MUNCIE, IN—Ahead of its nationwide theatrical release, Muncie will be one of 20 cities (and the only in Indiana) to early screen The First Step, a 90-minute documentary film that follows political commentator Van Jones and the bipartisan coalition who fought to pass landmark criminal justice reform in 2018 (The First Step Act), which has allowed more than 20,000 people to come home from federal prisons. The first screening opened in late-February in New York City and will conclude in May in Virginia.
Immediately following the Muncie screening on March 18th at Muncie Civic Theatre, The Facing Project co-founder and president, J.R. Jamison, will moderate an interactive local panel discussion on the themes of the film that include addiction, recovery, reentry, and criminal justice reform.
Local panelists will include:
- Jeff Hansard, Chief Probation Officer, Delaware County Probation
- WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO, YWCA of Central Indiana
- Ryan P. Brown, Medical Director of Addiction Services, IU Health East-Central Region
- Kellie Arrowood, Community Member
- Neil Kring, Pastor and Team Leader, Muncie Harm-Reduction
- Sara Renee, Director of Muncie Folk and Team Leader, Muncie Harm-Reduction
- Cory Matters, Social Worker, Clinical Therapist, and Certified Addiction Peer Recovery Coach
- Jean Marie Place, Director of Community Research, Addictions Coalition of Delaware County
- Ro Selvey, Muncie City Council
- Jeff Stanley, Chief Deputy, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office
“The First Step film complements work and conversations that are already happening in Muncie and other areas of the state, but it encourages us to think deeper about how far we still have to go—especially when it comes to crossing party lines to create substantive reform,” Jamison said. “This event invites the public into this important conversation.”
In regard to local drug-related charges, Hansard added, “In Delaware County, 25% of the folks on probation have a low-level substance offense such as possession, and we have 1,200 folks on probation at any given time.”
Tickets for the screening are $10 and available online or at Muncie Civic Theatre’s box office: https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=167410.
There are a limited number of reserved seats for those who need financial assistance. Please contact J.R. Jamison (email@example.com) for details.
More about the film can be found at: https://www.firststepfilm.com/.
Local Planning Team
J.R. Jamison, Co-Founder and President, The Facing Project; Aimee Robertson-West, Secretary of The Facing Project Board; Cory Matters, Social Worker, Clinical Therapist, and Certified Addiction Peer Recovery Coach; Kellie Arrowood, Community Member; Jason Donati, RACE Muncie; Dr. Kiesha Warren-Gordon, Professor of Criminal Justice & Criminology, Ball State University; and Shantanu Suman, Associate Professor of Visual Communication, Ball State University.
About the Facing Project
The Facing Project is a national, Muncie-based nonprofit that creates a more understanding and empathetic world through stories that inspire action. The organization has connected writers, storytellers, artists, educators, and community leaders in over 100 communities across the country to begin crucial conversations on some of the most pressing issues that divide us.
Through The Facing Project’s empathy model, more than 7,500 people have collaborated to tell more than 2,000 stories (and growing) that have been used by schools, colleges/universities, clinics, theatres, and government, among others, to inspire action. In addition, Facing Project stories are archived in Special Collections at Ball State University and regularly performed on The Facing Project Radio Show on Indiana Public Radio and the broader NPR network.
Learn more at www.facingproject.com.
About the Film
In a divided America, Van Jones controversially works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America’s addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities.
Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself.
While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.
THE FIRST STEP is an independent production of Meridian Hill Pictures (CITY OF TREES, PBS, Netflix 2016) and Magic Labs Media (THE MESSY TRUTH, 2017 Webby Award Winner, in association with filmmakers at Kartemquin Films (MINDING THE GAP, Hulu, 2019 Oscar Nomination) and Big Mouth Productions (DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, Netflix 2020) and the editorial talent behind KING IN THE WILDERNESS (HBO, Sundance 2018) and BIRTH OF THE COOL (PBS, Sundance 2019).
About Van Jones
Van Jones is a media personality, an entrepreneur and change maker — who has dedicated his career to bringing people together in clean energy solutions, criminal justice reform and racial inclusion in the tech sector. In 2007, Van was the primary champion of the Green Jobs Act, signed into law by George W. Bush. In 2009, he worked in the Obama White House as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs. Over the past 25 years, Van has founded and led social enterprises including REFORM Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, Green For All and the Dream Corps. He worked with Prince to launch #YesWeCode (now called Dream Corps TECH) to get jobs in the tech sector for low-opportunity young people. Van is also a CNN host, an Emmy Award-winning producer and a 3X New York Times best-selling author.
About Director Brandon Kramer
Brandon Kramer is a Washington, DC-based filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon directed CITY OF TREES (Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, national broadcast on PBS’ America Reframed, Netflix); and the Webby Award-winning documentary series THE MESSY TRUTH. Brandon won Best Director at the 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival and Indie Capital Awards, received the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and was a 2022 and 2015 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Individual Arts Fellow. Brandon has directed over 30 short documentaries commissioned by public agencies and nonprofits including AARP and US Institute of Peace. Before starting MHP, Brandon served as a teaching artist for the John F. Kennedy Center’s national media education program. Brandon holds a bachelor’s degree in film and cultural anthropology from Boston University.