MUSE interviewed the director of the HBO Documentary The Sentence Rudy Valdez about the rewards and hardships in telling the story of his sister and family.
The Sentence tells the story of his sister Cindy Shank, a mother of three who received a 15-year mandatory sentence for conspiracy charges related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes. The documentary offers a searing look at the consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing and received critical acclaim when it premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The Sentence draws on hundreds of hours of footage shot by Valdez, who initially copes with his sister’s incarceration by filming the family moments Shank misses in prison. In the midst of Shank’s sentence, Valdez discovers his voice as a filmmaker and activist.
During the last months of the Obama administration’s clemency initiative, the family starts to fight for Shank’s release. The aching question at the core of this deeply personal portrait is whether their attempts to free Shank will succeed.
The film was produced by Sam Bisbee and Jackie Kelman Bisbee; executive producers Wendy Neu, Lance Acord and Theodora Dunlap; co-producers, Geeta Gandbhir and April Hayes.
The documentary premieres on HBO October 15 at 8pm PT and on HBO Go and HBO Now on October 15 at 5pm PT.