America ReFramed Broadcast & Stream

CIRCLE UP will have its broadcast premiere on May 14 at 8pm (7pm CT / 9pm PT) on public television’s award-winning America ReFramed series. Check local listings for details.

Viewers can also stream the film for free here through June 28..

Here’s an interview filmmaker Julie Mallozzi completed for the broadcast:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your film.

I’m an independent documentary filmmaker based in the Boston area where CIRCLE UP takes place.  I’m of mixed heritage – Chinese and Italian-American and with influences from Native American, Hispanic, and Dutch cultures from various life experiences – and that has fueled my interest in the way different cultures mingle and intersect.  And in how some traditions can be “repurposed” outside of their original context to address social issues.

How and why did you become interested in the topic of restorative justice?

I have long worked for social justice in my filmmaking, through both my documentaries and the 100+ short media pieces I have created for community organizations over the years.  I learned about restorative justice about 12 years ago when I found out about peacemaking circles, an indigenous tradition that helps restore balance when harm has been done.  I was intrigued that this Native American tradition was being used in multi-cultural settings to resolve conflict and build community.  That launched my research for this film and my growing understanding of restorative justice more broadly.  Now I’m a true convert!

You are a local, Boston-based filmmaker. How did your relationship with the community give you a unique insight into the story?

It made a big difference to live near my film subjects because it enabled me to spend a good deal of time with them before starting to film, to film over a long period, and to stay in close contact during the editing process.  This was the first time I had made a film with survivors of trauma.  I learned a lot about what it might mean to do “restorative filmmaking.”  Janet, Clarissa, and the other people in the film watched many cuts and their feedback truly shaped the final film.

When did you develop a relationship with Janet?

I met Janet in 2012, after five years of (part-time) research into peacemaking circles.  I had flown all over the country observing and filming restorative justice programs and then one of my advisors introduced me to Janet, who lives 10 minutes from my house.  I was so struck by her personal story of healing and justice – and her impact on the wider community.  I knew she would make a great subject for the film.  And now she has become a good friend.

After enduring such a brutal tragedy, what gives Janet the strength to do the work she does?

Janet is one of the most amazing people I have met.  She somehow had it in her to not only forgive the men responsible for her son’s murder, but to turn this tragedy around into healing for herself and her community.  I'm not exactly sure where that strength comes from, but I know that when she sees positive change it helps her get through the tough times.  She has told me some stories about things that happened to her as a child and how she tried to turn difficult things into something positive – so maybe it’s just part of her spirit.  At the same time, Janet is always resisting being labeled as a hero or an angel.  She thinks that anyone can do restorative justice work and live their life in a restorative way.

Are there any updates about Janet, Clarissa, or any of the other women in the film since you stopped filming?

Janet and Clarissa are both doing really well.  In fact, they just returned from a second trip to New York City with CIRCLE UP.  The first one, in February, was to present the film as part of a professional development event for a group of principals, social workers, and restorative justice coordinators from 20 different high schools.  This week was to visit show the film and hold restorative circles for students and staff at schools in Brooklyn and the Bronx.  I know that anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays are still hard for Janet and Clarissa - as it is for all survivors of homicide victims - but they tell me that when they do this work it feeds their souls!  “We can’t bring our sons back, but we can bring them forward in everything we do."

How do you hope your film will help other survivors of homicide?

“Homicide doesn’t come with any directions or instruction manuals,” Clarissa often says.  After her son was murdered, she felt so shaken and angry and alone that she reached out in the darkness for others who had experienced the same loss.  This initial group of survivors of homicide victims became Legacy Lives On, which is featured in CIRCLE UP.  I hope that the film helps her survivors find community so they can get through those very dark moments.  I also hope it helps people find other paths to justice where the criminal justice system might fail. It’s not possible to bring back a stolen life.  But there are ways that a person, a family, a community can be made whole again.  If CIRCLE UP can help one person recover from trauma, or prevent one act of revenge violence, then all of my years of work will have been worth it

On the Road to Social Impact

IMG_4556.JPG

By Genevieve Hunt

As damp, gray clouds blanketed mile upon mile of Massachusetts’s farmland, I drove CIRCLE UP film subjects Janet Connors and Clarissa Turner to meet our filmmaker Julie Mallozzi for two screenings in Brooklyn and Manhattan. We had scheduled two events in one day: the first a restorative justice professional development for the NYC Department of Education and the second a screening at New York Law School for what would be an audience of over 200.  The long hours in the car –  stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and praying our GPS would not lead us astray – were a wonderful opportunity for me to spend with Janet and Clarissa. Janet kept my boredom at bay with stories of growing up Irish-American in Dorchester. From the back seat, Clarissa plied us with enough snacks to feed her six children back home in Boston.

I had been looking forward to this trip because it is always a wonderful experience to watch our film with an audience and get their feedback in a face-to-face setting. As an impact coordinator for CIRCLE UP, my job is to find the audiences who want to change our society’s way of thinking about harm and punishment and will use our film as a tool to drive that impact.  I write hundreds of emails inviting teachers, school administrators, faith leaders, college professors, probation officers, lawyers and judges because they have the ability to impact how justice is served in their communities.  I set up trip logistics and drive our film subjects to screenings where they lead circles and panel discussions.  I make sure the connections work for Skype conversations and the visual and audio equipment is ready. All the work is worth it because I’ve seen the power of CIRCLE UP move audiences from distraught teens to judges with decades of experience in a stressed and unforgiving criminal justice system.. I learn so much about how the film could be used by various audiences, educational institutions and social justice organizations to spread the work of restorative justice in the US.  People come up to me with tears in their eyes pushing scraps of paper at me with names of contacts they insist need to see the film. They tell me about a time when they forgave someone for something unthinkable or when they themselves were forgiven for a transgression they’ve committed and how it changed their life. 

No matter how many times I see CIRCLE UP, I learn something new. I watch the faces of Janet and Clarissa and think about how courageous and loving they are to share something so painful over and over again so that others can learn that forgiveness is possible. During this trip, it was wonderful to hear one educator in a restorative circle share how much staff and teachers needed to hold support circles for each other so that they could adopt a restorative mindset in the classroom. Later that day, I felt tears prick the back of my eyes as I watched a group of law students gather excitedly around Janet as if she were a rock star. “Mama J” gathered the group in her arms for warm hugs and photos. I listened to Clarissa gently explain to the astonishment of several law school professors how her faith in God lifted her up and prompted her suddenly to blurt out to her son’s killer in court that she forgave him. As always, seeing these two extraordinary women share their experiences with others has an uplifting effect on me.  

In the weeks following our trip to NYC, more high schools, churches and law schools are contacting us, wanting to share CIRCLE UP as an example of what restorative justice truly looks and feels like with their educators and students as they begin building or refining their own restorative justice programs. I look forward to getting out on the road again across America to meet people who gather in schools, courtrooms, prisons, churches, and colleges, hoping to hear about an alternative path to justice based on restoring wholeness to individuals and communities.

Advancing Restorative Justice in NYC Schools

CIRCLE UP NYC Department of Education.jpg

The CIRCLE UP team just returned from an exhilarating trip to New York City to lead a professional development event for principals, restorative justice coordinators, and social workers from 19 of the city’s public schools.  Our goal was to help this dedicated cohort of educators reflect on the successes and challenges of implementing restorative justice – and to showcase our film as a tool for demonstrating what RJ looks and feels like.

After a casual welcome breakfast, filmmaker Julie Mallozzi, film subjects Janet Connors and Clarissa Turner, and impact coordinator Genevieve Hunt presented the film to the 50 participants and held a panel discussion about what brought them to do RJ work in schools – and what they have learned in the process.  We then broke into several smaller circles, each co-facilitated by a local educator and a member of the CIRCLE UP team, to explore participants’ responses to the film and to reflect on what might be needed to further RJ at their schools.  Returning to the full group, we shared what we learned and brainstormed how CIRCLE UP might be used with staff, students, and families to model restorative practices.

Each school received a copy of the CIRCLE UP DVD, which includes both the 69-minute feature and the 14-minute short, and a print copy of our fresh-off-the-press Facilitator Guide

The gathering concluded with a vociferous request for Janet and Clarissa to go on a “speaking tour” to individual schools in New York City.  Their powerful testimony, as mothers who lost sons to homicide and now help other children break cycles of revenge and violence, always sets a room afire.

A Second Festival Circuit

CIRCLE UP Globe Docs Film Festival

After making the rounds of film festivals with the CIRCLE UP feature – screening in dozens of cities across the country – we are now starting a second round with our new short version of the film.

At 14 minutes, the short conveys the heart of the story of Janet Connors’ and Clarissa Turner’s transformation of trauma into healing.  We created it to make it possible for the film to be included in shorter class periods for students or trainings for professionals.  And a side benefit is that it opens up interesting programming opportunities for festivals, too!