While THE SWEETEST LAND took years to construct, the events, findings and actions, could never have been predicted.
Having documented years of incidents with vulnerable individuals and families, finding effective prevention services or established programs, which offered substantial improvement to a victim’s life was difficult. In fact, regardless of the year’s violent crime rate, political party in power or annual safety-net funds spent, in too many cases, the victims filmed, were unnecessarily abandoned within conditions that never changed. That problem repeated itself time and time again.
Ironically, these findings were the opposite of the film’s intent. (Originally, it was leadership and change). But, with a seemingly unending injury-toll suffered by urban communities nationwide, the question of what WE are doing about violence prevention and victims care, mandated a change in direction.
To sequence our stories in research, we consulted with numerous violence prevention experts at America’s top tier institutes. We met with directors at the Center’s For Disease Control (CDC), Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Law and many others nationwide, whose message was clear. Most prevention programs are not rigorously evaluated. Some do more harm than good. On the other hand, there is agreement that violence is absolutely preventable. In fact, when proven strategies are implemented with rigorous evaluation, their results can save lives, reduce spending and improve the well being of communities. But knowing information does not necessarily equate to acting on it.
Intent on improvement, we met with senators, congressmen and staffers on the local and national level. Through private excerpt presentations, we began to share some of the response of the current prevention system, (or lack thereof) on the many victims’s we filmed. Our goal was to develop partnerships that could proactively plan and use the film’s stories to improve the safety net. We met with state and federal officials, senators in D.C., the Governor’s administration of Connecticut and many others. In doing so, we heard countless “off the record” acknowledgments of costly safety net flaws, poor performance for spend and the list of excuses goes on. But the greater challenge was finding those in leadership positions, (and there are many) who would be accountable to fix them based in the best available research. And perhaps, that is a great part of the problem. But that can be changed.
Within the next few months, THE SWEETEST LAND will be submitted to film festivals. Upon the film’s release, we will celebrate those who engaged and press for improvements based in research, evidence and logic. Most importantly, we will honor the trust of the many families, individuals and those who battle America’s most trying obstacles every day.