A film about the effects of parental incarceration is making its way around the state. The movie, a project of the Lamoille Restorative Center, features young Vermonters growing up with a parent in jail.
Downstream: The Effects of Parental Incarceration is an hourlong film that shares the stories of young people like Haylee, who says in the movie: "Honestly, my best friend in elementary school stopped being my friend for a little bit because her mom told her that she shouldn't be my friend because somehow what my mom did made me a bad person. And that was really hard."
Tricia Long is director of Resilience Beyond Incarceration, a program of the Lamoille Restorative Center. Long said one of the goals of the film is to break the stigma kids like Haylee live with every day.
"There's a lot of secrecy around incarceration," said Long. "And when that happens, children and families don't reach out for help. You know, if your mom or dad goes to the military or if a parent dies, everyone circles around that family. It's not a secret in the community and there's lots of support. And that just doesn't happen when a parent disappears because they're incarcerated."
Long works directly with families with an incarcerated parent. She also provides training to educators and daycare providers around the state. It was her idea to make a film featuring some of her clients.
"I was so astonished time and again with how they just opened up the doors into their hearts and shared really, really hard pieces of their life stories," Long said of the families who are featured in the film. "That was something I hadn't expected that they would do."
Long worked with Corinth filmmaker Brad Salon, of Bear Notch Productions, on the movie. Originally they were planning on a much shorter video, but Salon said he volunteered his time to turn it into a bigger project.
"Each story really had something to offer in terms of illuminating the issue from a different perspective or a different part of the issue," Salon said. "And it really just came down to us not wanting to cut any of the stories, or tell any of the stories so quickly that they didn't have the impact that they needed."
The film laces those stories together with drone footage and other shots of the Vermont landscape. Long said Vermont is very much a part of the story.
"We live in a very beautiful, beautiful space," she said. "And to be able to juxtapose these lovely hills and rivers and this place we call home with the experience that is darker and harder and, you know, not so beautiful — and to be able to juxtapose those things and say, 'These are the stories that live in these beautiful hills and mountains that we call home.'"
Salon said parental incarceration is an issue that affects everyone, whether they know it or not.
"If you don’t have anyone in your life who’s incarcerated, it's very easy to see this as an issue that is of another world," he said. "And I just hope all Vermonters really see that this is an issue that affects them in their wallet, this is an issue that affects their community very deeply in terms of the trauma that people are walking around with and that, you know, there's a lot that we can do as individuals."
Free screenings of Downstream will be held at Essex Cinemas on May 7 and at Briggs Opera House, in White River Junction, on May 23. Showings start at 6:30 p.m. and reservations are encouraged. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussion with people featured in the film.
Watch the trailer: