In 1995, director Steve James (of 'Hoop Dreams') returned to rural Southern Illinois to reconnect with Stevie Fielding, a troubled young boy to whom he had been an "Advocate Big Brother" ten years earlier.
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He began a film, a search, to discover not only what had happened to Stevie over the past ten years but to understand the forces that had shaped his entire life. Part way through the filming, Stevie is arrested and charged with a serious crime that tears his family apart. What was to be a modest profile turns into a intimate four and half year chronicle of Stevie, his broken family, the criminal justice system and the filmmaker himself, as they all struggle with what Stevie has done and who he has become.Written by
[when his step-grandmother mentions Stevie's abusive biological mom]
I don't have a mother, I never had one, and on the day she dies, I'm gonna go, and I'm gonna laugh at her!
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I just saw Stevie today at a film festival and it really blew me away. Its harrowing to see the life of someone who was passed off from person to person and only rarely got a glimpse of a happier life. He is used as a pawn in the relationship between his grandmother and the mother who didn't want him (and took it out in abuse). Later he is sent through the foster care system where he is eventually raped. Bits of his medical record reveal the degree to which we can predict the effects that this sort of instability will bring to a person's life, which makes it all the more angering that noone was there to prevent it.
In one particularly powerful scene you see Stevie reunited with the kindest of his early foster parents and the joy it brings to him. There is almost a complete regression in him to a childlike state, like he is trying to restart his childhood at the point where he was happy.
Steve James does not try to excuse the heinous crime Stevie has committed, rather he forces you to see the complicity we all have in (including in a very real sense himself) allowing a system that ignores the needs of children.
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