Howard-Crawford Lecture Series Welcomes Sundance Filmmaker
By Natalia Kapacinkas
On February 17 and 19, The SU English department and Paideia Investigating Identity cluster screened the Sundance Film Festival documentary Crime after Crime and invited its award-winning filmmaker Yoav Potash to present “Life-Changing Filmmaking.” The lecture was part of the the Howard-Crawford Lecture Series, and informally celebrated the introduction of a film studies track within the English major.
Crime after Crime details the case of Deborah Peagler, a woman incarcerated for her involvement in the murder of her abusive boyfriend. Peagler, convicted of first-degree murder in 1982, was not permitted to share evidence of her abuse when her case was tried. In a California law passed in 2002, imprisoned domestic violence survivors received the legal right to reopen their cases and share evidence of abuse.
In the film, attorneys Joshua Safran (Potash’s friend from the Bay Area Jewish community) and Nadia Costa took Peagler’s case on a volunteer basis in an attempt to free Peagler from incarceration. Crime after Crime follows the case from its repeated rejection by the District Attorney to Peagler’s final parole hearing and release, five years after the case was reopened.
Potash wanted to play up what is familiar along with what is unfamiliar in the film to highlight the lives of those involved.
“I could’ve started the film with statistics about domestic violence victims,” said Potash. “But you don’t know any of those people. You need to know one [Deborah Peagler].”
In his lecture, Potash explained that he was hired first as a legal videographer to cover Peagler’s case, but his footage from initial interviews with her spurred him to create a full-length documentary about Safran and Costa’s work to free her from imprisonment.
“People ask me, ‘how could you stick with this story for five years?’” said Potash during his lecture. “‘How could I not?’ I thought it was the right story to tell.”
Helene Meyers, who arranged Potash’s visit to Southwestern, said that she learned of Crime after Crime through her “research passions,” which lead her to “film festivals, including Jewish film festivals.” Meyers added that “the film not only powerfully depicts a broken criminal justice system but also committed and knowledgeable activism.” Her hope is that Crime after Crime will encourage “the campus community… to learn more about our criminal justice system and ways to rehabilitate it. I also hope that we recognize the important cultural and political work that film does.”
Potash himself hopes that Deborah Peagler’s story will inspire cultural change, ending his lecture with the encouragement that “there are certain stories we must tell, and those stories cannot be silenced, stopped, or cut short.”