Last week, Netflix announced that it has acquired the rights to a documentary in the works that covers the story and eventual released of Cyntoia Brown, the 31-year-old Tennessee inmate who was charged and convicted of first-degree murder at the age of 16. Brown, if you recall, had run away from home and been forced into prostitution; after being the victim of sexual assault and abuse, she was arrested for killing a man who had picked her up for sex. Brown was tried and convicted as an adult.
This past January, Brown was granted clemency by former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam from what would have been a five-decade-long sentence in prison after activists rallied behind her team’s effort to shorten her term. A juvenile court judge who is working to reform juvenile sentencing laws in Tennessee explained to the New York Times earlier this year, “The bottom line is most of these kids who end up doing very horrific crimes or tragic crimes have all in some ways been victimized. When we lock them up for life, we discount their ability to rehabilitate and become better citizens.” Brown will be released on parole next month on August 9th.
Daniel Birman will lead the project as the executive producer. He was the producer for the 2011 PBS documentary Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, the film that first brought Cyntoia’s story to the public eye. Susy Garciasalas Barkley, who also worked with Birman on the Me Facing Life, is on board as a producer as well. By the way, Barkley was one of the producers for PBS’s On Two Fronts: Latinos & Vietnam which explored how the war affected Latinos living in the Southwestern United States well as Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle, a documentary about the Mexican-American journalist who covered El Movimiento before being murdered by law enforcement.
The acquisition of Cyntoia Brown’s story comes not long after the success of the dramatic series based on the lives and trials of the Central Park Five. Over 23 million accounts streamed Ava DuVernay’s series When They See Us, making it one of the most-watched series on the streaming platform; more people watched When They See Us in the first two weeks of its premiere than any other series available. “Imagine believing the world doesn’t care about real stories of black people. It always made me sad,” tweeted DuVernay in June upon learning of the viewership data. “So when Netflix just shared with me that 23M+ accounts worldwide have watched #WhenTheySeeUs, I cried. Our stories matter and can move across the globe. A new truth for a new day.”