IN THE LINE OF DUTY: A CONVERSATION WITH ERNIE AND JOE (ERNIE & JOE) AND REP. BRUCE FRANKS, JR. (ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN)
Given the urgency around mass incarceration and police-involved shootings, it's tragic that solutions to these crises seem evermore elusive. Two films in this year's AFI DOCS lineup — ERNIE & JOE and ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN — offer powerful counter-narratives to this bleak picture by profiling extraordinary leaders with bold and innovative approaches to these issues. Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro are part of the San Antonio Police Department's Mental Health Unit, which seeks to find a better way to help people in crises without force. Bruce Franks, Jr., a Ferguson protester and now a Missouri State Representative, has freed up funding for intervention programs that reduce incarceration. In this frank and incisive conversation, Ernie, Joe and Bruce discuss their bridge-building, game-changing approaches, and show us what hope and change can look like.
Moderators: Allison Sandza
Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro
Allison Sandza (Moderator) is a producer for Meet the Press with Chuck Todd in Washington. Before joining NBC News she worked for KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, producing documentary shorts about education and public policy, as well as a weekly interview program, Overheard with Evan Smith, which airs on many PBS stations nationwide. She is a native Washingtonian.
Jenifer McShane is the director and producer of ERNIE & JOE, her third feature documentary. She spent years visiting the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility to make her last documentary, MOTHERS OF BEDFORD, which reveals the impact of incarceration on incarcerated mothers and their children. Winner of the 2013 Director's Award at the Social Justice Film Festival, selected by the U.S. Department's American Film Showcase to tour internationally, it was broadcast on PBS stations nationwide as part of the AMERICA REFRAMED documentary series. McShane’s first film, A LEAP OF FAITH, follows a group of parents in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as they open an integrated school for Catholic and Protestant children. The film was broadcast on PBS and screened broadly on European television.
Ernie Stevens was born and raised in San Antonio. He has been a police officer for 27 years, including 24 with SAPD. He was a founding member of the SAPD Mental Health Unit when it began as a pilot program in 2008. He recently earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice.
Joe Smarro has been with SAPD for 13 years, including nearly 10 with the Mental Health Unit. During his time with the Mental Health Unit, Smarro earned his Associate's and Bachelor's degrees in Criminal Justice, and earned the Hector Garza Award for being the top graduate in Criminal Justice. Currently, he is working toward his Master's in Business Administration.
Smriti Mundhra's debut feature, A SUITABLE GIRL, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and was awarded the Albert Maysles Best Documentary Director prize. She is currently in production on a docuseries for Netflix. Her first TV ad, for Bumble, starring Priyanka Chopra, is on screens worldwide.
State Representative Bruce Franks, Jr. is a community activist, father and battle rapper, whose priorities are fighting crime, getting guns off the streets and encouraging minorities to become police officers. A St. Louis native born in 1984, he graduated from Lindbergh High School in 2002. He soon became a world-renowned battle rapper known as Ooop's, as well as a small business owner. After the events of August 9, 2014, Franks was compelled to get involved as a protester/peacekeeper in Ferguson. This led him to start mentoring youth by giving guidance and support to those in need. Working with Youth build and St. Louis's Workforce development, he has helped many at-risk youth graduate and attain gainful employment.