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Mothers of Bedford film poster
5/2/24, 6pm - 8pm
Gensler New York
1.5 LU / 1.5 HSW

How can architects be better advocates for a better world? The Reimagining Justice Film Festival will create the opportunity to encounter revolutionary ideas through investigating the history and lived experiences of people as we watch documentaries relating to Justice Reform, Environmental Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. For the 2024 festival, film screenings occur every Thursday in May. Opening night on May 2 will include a screening of the documentary Mothers of Bedford, followed by a Q&A with the award-winning filmmaker Jenifer McShane.

Many parents find it hard to imagine being away from a child for a week. Imagine being separated for 10 or 20 years? Mothers of Bedford explores the effects of a long-term prison sentence on the mother-child relationship. The film examines the struggles and joys these five women face as incarcerated women and mothers. It shows the normal frustrations of parenting as well as the surreal experiences of a child's first birthday party inside prison, the cell that child lives in with her mother, and the biggest celebration of the year while filming, Mother's Day. Filmmaker Jenifer McShane spent four years visiting Bedford Hills and following the women and their families. A mother herself, McShane was drawn to the universal themes of motherhood and the staggering power of the mother-child relationship. In all walks of life, mother and child care for each other. As we watch the mothers inside Bedford trying to become their better selves, we see parts of our own selves—and that gives us all hope.

View the Series Flyer

Jenifer McShane, Independent Filmmaker
Karen Thomas, Artist, Escape Time

Judge Victoria Pratt, Board of Directors, Center for Justice Innovation

About the Speakers:
Jenifer McShane is an independent filmmaker committed to using film to bridge understanding in situations where structural, cultural or religious divisions typically keep people apart. Her last film, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, won an Emmy for Outstanding Editing and the Jury Award at South By Southwest. It is currently streaming on HBO. McShane spent four years visiting Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford, N.Y. to make her previous documentary, Mothers of Bedford, which reveals the impact of incarceration on mothers and their children was aired on PBS. Her first documentary, A Leap of Faith, was narrated by Liam Neeson and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She is currently completing a documentary about a quilting group in a men's prison in Missouri. McShane was born and raised in New York City and currently lives in Guilford, CT.

Karen Thomas spent 34.5 years in prison, convicted of a domestic violence homicide. While in prison, she realized that everything was beige and dull; she didn’t even have a view. With limited materials, she began creating fabric art wall hangings depicting scenes she yearned to have as her reality. Her art helped her cope with the long years of incarceration and deprivation from the life she knew before the abuse she endured. Upon her release in 2017, she relocated to New York City and was hired to work as a paralegal in the office of a criminal defense attorney. Now, working for the New York State Division of Human Rights, she focuses on helping other women who are disenfranchised. With her art, she sews scenes reminiscent of her childhood and what she still yearns for as her reality. Some of her art has particular emphasis on domestic violence, and she exhibits those pieces to bring attention to the fact that there are women living in situations of intimate partner abuse. Her goal is to let them know that it’s possible to leave their situations with safety. Thomas exhibits her wall hangings, which are called “Yearnscapes,” every summer with Escaping Time on Governor’s Island. She has also exhibited at a Columbia University Mass Incarceration seminar, in a solo show at the WOW Café and theater in the East Village, in Jersey City, and in the Interchurch Center in Manhattan.

Judge Victoria Pratt is the Board of Directors at Center for Justice Innovation. Judge Pratt served as the chief judge in Newark Municipal Court in Newark, New Jersey and the founding judge of Newark Community Solutions, an initiative that provides alternatives to jail and fines to low-level offenders in Newark. Prior to joining the bench, she served as counsel to the City Council President in Newark. She also worked in the counsel’s office for New Jersey governors Jim McGreevey and Richard Codey and as a compliance officer for the Camden school district. Her TED talk, How Judges Can Show Respect, has been translated into 11 languages and received over one million views. Since leaving the bench, she has worked to advance justice reform in jurisdictions across the nation, and as far as Ukraine, England, Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexico. She has also served as a professor at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and Rutgers Law School.  

More in the Reimagining Justice Film Festival:
Reimagining Justice Film Festival (2 of 5): 16 Bars
Reimagining Justice Film Festival (3 of 5): Crip Camp, Gyo Obata, and More
Reimagining Justice Film Festival (4 of 5): TED Talk by JR, Unguarded, and More
Reimagining Justice Film Festival (5 of 5): Rights and Reactions

Organized by:
AIANY Architecture for Justice Committee

Supported by:
AIANY Women in Architecture Committee; AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee; AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee; AIANY Committee on the Environment

Mothers of Bedford film poster
5/2/24, 6pm - 8pm
Gensler New York
Group 6 Created with Sketch.


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