Drawing from hundreds of hours of footage, filmmaker Rudy Valdez shows the aftermath of his sister Cindy's incarceration for conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend—something known, in legal terms, as “the girlfriend problem.” Cindy's 15-year mandatory sentence is hard on everyone, but for her husband and children, Cindy's sudden banishment feels like a kind of death that becomes increasingly difficult to grapple with.
Valdez's method of coping with this tragedy is to film his sister's family for her, both the everyday details and the milestones—moments Cindy herself can no longer share in. But in the midst of this nightmare, Valdez finds his voice as both a filmmaker and activist, and he and his family begin to fight for Cindy's release during the last months of the Obama administration's clemency initiative. Whether their attempts will allow Cindy to break free of her draconian sentence becomes the aching question at the core of this riveting and deeply personal portrait of a family in crisis.
Audience Award: U.S. Documentary, Presented by Acura
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Rudy Valdez is a Michigan-raised, Brooklyn-based filmmaker. He got his start as a camera operator on the Peabody Award–winning series Brick City and has worked as a cinematographer for directors and producers such as Sebastian Junger, Whoopi Goldberg, Geeta Gandbhir, and Samuel D. Pollard. Ten years in the making, The Sentence is Rudy's directorial debut. When he's not working, you can find Rudy at the park with his wife and daughter.