EXCLUSIVE: In the less than a month, reform-minded San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin faces a recall election that could remove him from office.
Whether or not the recall vote prevails, Boudin has already made history as the city’s first progressive D.A. As the upcoming documentary Beyond Bars: A Son’s Fight for Justice explores, Boudin has promoted “decarceration,” pushed for an end to cash bail, created a unit within his office to investigate dubious convictions, and dared to prosecute a police officer on felony charges of beating a man with a metal baton.
“I am committed to continuing to hold those who commit harm accountable,” Boudin said after the officer’s acquittal at trial in March, “regardless of the uniform they may wear or the badge they may carry. No one should be above the law.”
Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed), president of the nonprofit Brave New Films, directed the documentary. The title refers to Boudin’s extraordinary origins as the child of Weather Underground radicals David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin, who were convicted of murder in connection with a 1981 holdup of a Brink’s truck in Nanuet, New York.
“The robbery began with [Kathy] Boudin dropping off her infant son, Chesa Boudin, at a babysitter’s,” according to one account, “before taking the wheel of the getaway vehicle.”
In the trailer for Beyond Bars, Chesa recalls, “My earliest memories are getting searched by prison guards” while visiting his incarcerated mother and father.
“The film documents Chesa’s early life, as he struggled to overcome his childhood trauma through years of prison visits and the fight to free his parents,” a release notes, “through his efforts to reform the justice system by running a long shot campaign that resulted in him being elected to be San Francisco’s current District Attorney in 2019.”
In 2020, Boudin successfully lobbied then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to commute his father’s sentence. Gilbert was released on parole late last year. Chesa’s mother Kathy had been released almost 20 years previously and later became an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She died of cancer on May 1.
“The story of Chesa Boudin is a story of hope that will move and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds,” Greenwald said in a statement. “From overcoming the trauma of visiting his parents in prison as a child, to fighting to free them and reform the criminal justice system – for Chesa Boudin, the personal is always political. The story of Beyond Bars: A Son’s Fight for Justice is a must watch documentary for all people who recognize that our criminal justice system is broken and an inspiring story that everyone can make a difference to make it better.”
Beyond Bars is expected to be released in fall 2022. The documentary is produced by Casey Cooper Johnson and co-produced by Deborah Correa. Noely Mendoza and Tatiana Garnett serve as associate producers.
Watch the trailer above.
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