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From the award-winning directors of BETTER THIS WORLD
Loteria Films presents

THE RETURN

The United States has more people incarcerated
than any country in the world

The Return

In 2012, California amended its "Three Strikes” law—one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” was underway. The Return examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines—prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law. 

At a moment of reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California’s experiment teach the nation?

 

THE RETURN PROJECT

Designed to engage audiences past the viewing of the film alone, THE RETURN PROJECT is the vehicle through which supporters of THE RETURN can take actions to cerate impact and help reform our broken criminal justice system.  This dynamic engagement and impact campaign includes a series of short films for the New York Times, Mother Jones and others; an interactive multimedia archive with audio, video, stills and text; educational curricula; a photo essay, and more with the overarching goal of telling stories and informing audiences via a range of perspectives: the incarcerated and recently released; their family members; those who work in the criminal justice system including judges and attorneys; reentry providers and experts; students; policy makers and more. THE RETURN PROJECT will illuminate the systemic problems that have led to unprecedented incarceration rates and will illuminate healthier, saner alternatives from mental health courts to sentencing reform to viable reentry programs and plans.

The Return Project

includes our nationally broadcast feature documentary but also encompasses a broader, deeper and longer term campaign aimed at educating and engaging with key target audiences during a three year period that many experts agree is a “change moment” for mass incarceration. This dynamic engagement and impact campaign includes a series of short films for the New York Times, Mother Jones and others; an interactive multimedia archive with audio, video, stills and text; educational curricula; a photo essay, and more with the overarching goal of telling stories and informing audiences via a range of perspectives: the incarcerated and recently released; their family members; those who work in the criminal justice system including judges and attorneys; reentry providers and experts; students; policy makers and more. THE RETURN PROJECT will illuminate the systemic problems that have led to unprecedented incarceration rates and will illuminate healthier, saner alternatives from mental health courts to sentencing reform to viable reentry programs and plans.

Loteria Films

Loteria Films is a creatively driven multimedia production company known for producing intimate, emotionally powerful work that educates and inspires public debate on many of the important issues of our time. Loteria (a 501c3) works across digital platforms including film, television, short format content for the web, social and mobile to ensure maximum reach and social impact for our projects.

The Filmmakers

  • KELLY DUANE DE LA VEGA | Director/Producer

    Loteria founder DUANE DE LA VEGA‘s documentaries have screened at film festivals worldwide, opened theatrically across the country and broadcast nationally on POV/PBS and the Documentary Channel. Her work has received the Writer’s Guild of America’s Best Documentary Screenplay Award, Gotham Independent Film’s Best Documentary Award and multiple national Emmy nominations. Duane de la Vega’s film BETTER THIS WORLD won Best Documentary Feature at SFIF and Sarasota Film Festival, received an IDA Creative Achievement award and was selected to screen at NY MoMA’s documentary fortnight. MONUMENTAL screened at the Lincoln Center, was acquired by the Smithsonian for its permanent collection and is used by more than 50 universities internationally. Duane de la Vega has a history of producing powerful short format work for The New York Times Op-Doc Series, Mother Jones, IFC and Discovery, among others. A Sundance & HBO/Film Independent Fellow, she has guest lectured at various universities and taught Documentary Forms at UC Berkeley.

  • KATIE GALLOWAY | Director/Producer

    Loteria principal GALLOWAY is a director, producer and writer whose films explore the intersections of institutional power, civil & human rights and political activism.  BETTER THIS WORLD (POV, 2011 & 2012) won the WGA’s Best Documentary Screenplay Award, Best Documentary at the Gotham Independent Film Awards and an International Documentary Association Creative Recognition Award. Galloway’s feature documentary PRISON TOWN, USA (POV, 2007) broadcast nationally on POV/PBS and was developed as a fiction television series by IFC. She produced and reported an award-winning trio of films on the American justice system for PBS FRONTLINE: SNITCH, REQUIEM FOR FRANK LEE SMITH, and CASE FOR INNOCENCE. A two-time Sundance Fellow, Galloway taught documentary production at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and teaches in Media Studies at UC Berkeley, where she was also recently the filmmaker in residence at the Journalism School’s Investigative Reporting Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Berkeley with emphases on Political Psychology and Public Law.

  • ARIELLA BEN-DOV | Producer

    BEN-DOV is a documentary producer who has worked on a range of award-winning social justice issue documentaries including Academy Award-winning director Debra Chasnoff’s THAT’S A FAMILY and the RESPECT FOR ALL film series. She is an internationally recognized film curator who specializes in independent cinema across genres. As the director of the Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, she expanded the festival to encompass installations, multimedia performances and educational programs. Ben-Dov co-founded MadCat Women’s International Film Festival and served as its executive director and curator from 1996–2012. She has presented her programs at numerous venues internationally including the Harn Museum of Art, Harvard Film Archive, and Pacific Film Archive. Ben-Dov co-curated the 51st Flaherty Film Seminar, Creative Demolition. She has taken part in and moderated panels on alternative exhibition, documentary film and experimental filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival among other festivals and has been a juror at festivals around the world.

The Campaign Team

  • Kevin Bilal Chatman | FILM SUBJECT AND CAMPAIGN REPRESENTATIVE

    Born in Los Angeles, Kevin Bilal Chatman moved to San Jose as a child with his single mother (a nurse) and three brothers. As a teenager, he was a wrestler, and on both the football and track teams. He attended high school and junior college in San Jose before beginning work in the logistics field. In the 1980s when the economy crashed, Bilal lost his job, and when the crack epidemic hit, he was swept up in drug addiction and dealing. Ultimately, he received a 150 years-to-life sentence under California’s “Three Strikes” law for selling $200 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer. Incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, known for its unusual commitment to programming, Bilal took classes in sociology, drug addiction, parenting, anger management, humanities, and yoga, and also played on the prison's baseball team. In 2012, Californians overwhelmingly voted to amend the “Three Strikes” law and Bilal became eligible for release. After nearly 11 years, he returned to San Jose, a district with relatively high support for those reentering, and has since thrived. He is currently the Logistics Supervisor for a major organization, overseeing two campuses and 21 employees. Bilal has since married and was voted the 2015 Employee of the Year at his second job with a major American sports team.

    As a member of “The Return Project,” he was recently featured on “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” and has been a panelist at a Capitol Hill Screening with Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore. He continues to travel the country speaking about the effects of mass incarceration on communities and individuals across America.