Saturday, April 13, 2013

Texas Student Tells the Story of His Childhood Friend, Killed by a Drunk Driver

At first, the title 1:36 slightly baffles. Is this a reference to one minute and 36 seconds, perhaps within the context of an athletic event such as track and field? Is it an indication that we are about to watch a very short short?

None of the above. 1:36 is a 24-minute documentary by Texas Christian University senior Caten Hyde. Screening Monday April 15th at Houston's WorldFest, the movie is titled to chillingly remind one and all of the exact time the early-morning 911 call came in to the Sheriff's department of Harris County, Texas. At that moment, on June 25th, 2011, the life of 20-year-old Aaron Pennywell had just been cruelly extinguished by the reckless actions of 38-year-old Michael Giacona, a DWI offender back on the road with three times the legal limit of alcohol coursing through his veins.

Hyde's film has been accepted at several other festivals. One can only imagine how emotional some of the Q&As could be, as the tragedy of drunk driving is one that now touches so many.

He has received some nice initial local media coverage from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Houston public radio. Per the newspaper article, here is a reminder of why the subsequent criminal investigation, lack of eyewitnesses and minimal prison time for Giacona made national headlines:

Court-at-law Judge Michael Fields ordered Giacona, as part of his probation, to wear a giant sign that read, "I killed Aaron Coy Pennywell while driving drunk," on four consecutive Saturdays. Giacona served one Saturday before the judge waived the sentence because of threats made against him.

Pennywell's parents have become active anti-drunk driving campaigners and are currently pursuing a wrongful death civil suit against Giacona. Via Facebook earlier this month, Hyde revealed that veteran CBS News anchor-correspondent Bob Schieffer has watched the film and is sending along a letter with his thoughts.

The film premiered March 16th in Houston at the Cypress United Methodist Church. RIP.

Update - 04/24/13: Hyde's film was awarded a "Platinum Remi" at WorldFest Houston for Biographical Film. The award was accepted by Kae Pennywell, Aaron's mother. 1:36 previously won a Rellie Award from the Glen Rose Neo-Relix Film Festival.


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