Friday, December 19, 2014

Florida Parole Commission Gives Documentary Filmmaker Happiest Ending

This has been an eventful week for the Florida prisoner at the center of the feature documentary The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest.

On Tuesday, the film was screened at the Tallahassee Film Society, a showcase located inside an Amtrak station. On Wednesday, the Florida Commission on Offender Review (also in Tallahassee) decreed that DeFriest will be eligible for parole in March 2015, rather than the theoretical date of 2085, when he would have long been dead. Assuming some related due prison time in California and Alabama can be scrubbed, DeFriest will be a completely free man next spring.

It's one of those turns that merits, if not its own second documentary once DeFriest, 54, gets out, at least a coda to the current film by Gabriel London, which premiered at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival. Along the way to this week, there was a petition started by DeFriest's wife Bonnie, a critical earlier November parole commission hearing and lots of public good will.

Director London is no stranger to public-action filmmaking. From his bio:

In 2001, London teamed with Human Rights Watch to tell the story of the most vulnerable and victimized inmates behind bars, rolling out two films to accompany the No Escape: Prison Rape in America report. Together, the films and report went on to galvanize public support for policy change and in 2003 helped the U.S. Congress to pass the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was signed into law.
In the years since, London has teamed with Drew Barrymore on a youth voting documentary called The Best Place to Start and with Snoop Dogg on an autobiographical film about the streets-to-prison cycle of at-risk youth, Bigg Snoop Dogg’s Youth Authority.
In 2009, Found Object Films created the "See You in Copenhagen" campaign for the UN Foundation, and later teamed with Timberland to create content for their 'Don't Tell Us It Can't be Done' climate campaign.
In 2011, London worked with SpikeTV to launch the Hire a Vet campaign, saluting returning troops with job resources and examples of successful transitions, aired on the channel.

Still, this week's turn of events ranks at the very top of London's impressive list of turnabouts. Thanks in no small part to his efforts and long-gestating doc, a high-functioning autistic man whose uncanny ability to escape compounded the situation, is about to be set free... While he is still actually alive to enjoy that freedom.

[The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest]


  1. Bonnie DeFriest at 1:37 AMDecember 20, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    Gabriel himself must be named for the "Angel" of God for the work he has been accomplishing in saving - not only Mark - but the world! --Bonnie DeFriest

  2. Were it not for Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! I would never have heard about this. I am grateful for independent media that enabled me to become informed and take action by contributing to the petition.