In 2004, Cyntoia Brown was arrested for murder. There was no question that a 43-year-old man is dead and that she killed him. What mystified filmmaker Daniel Birman was just how common violence among youth is, and just how rarely we stop to question our assumptions about it. He wondered in this case what led a girl — who grew-up in a reasonable home environment — to this tragic end?
Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story explores Cyntoia’s life. The camera first glimpses her the week of her arrest at age 16 and follows her for nearly six years. Along the way, nationally renown juvenile forensic psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet from Vanderbilt University, assesses her situation. We meet Ellenette Brown, Cyntoia’s adoptive mother who talks about the young girl’s early years. Georgina Mitchell, Cyntoia’s biological mother, meets her for the first time since she gave her up for adoption 14 years earlier. When we meet Cyntoia’s maternal grandmother, Joan Warren, some patterns begin to come into sharp focus.
Cyntoia wrestles with her fate. She is stunningly articulate, and spends the time to put the pieces of this puzzle together with us. Cyntoia's pre-prison lifestyle was nearly indistinguishable from her mother's at the same age. History — predestined by biology and circumstance — is repeating down the generations in this family.
Cyntoia is tried as an adult, and the cameras are there when she is convicted and sentenced to life at the Tennessee Prison for Women. After the verdict, Cyntoia calls her mom to tell her the news.
In the end, we catch up with Cyntoia as she is adjusting to prison, and struggling with her identity and hope for her future.
Domestic Violence (DV) is a pattern of behavior in which a person abuses power in an attempt to gain control over another person. DV is a community issue. It exists on Vashon and is likely under-reported. What does a survivor look like? Look around you. Survivors are lawyers and shop clerks, housewives and teens. Anyone, from any background, at any age, can find themselves in a situation where they feel threateded. You are not alone.
Need immediate help? Click here.
There is a newly formed organization committed to acting as a conduit for our community to access domestic violence services primarily located off-island. The DoVE Project, a program of Vashon Youth and Family Services (VYFS) is committed to assisting DV survivors in utilizing existing resources. Through the DoVE Project, a survivor can gain access to a support-group, get help with legal procedures and speak to an advocate.
For more information, a report prepared by Shirk Grant Writing Services here identifies the issues.
If you'd like to view some pictures from the benefit at the Red Bike, click here to view them