The makers of Conviction clearly have an opinion when it comes to prison reform and the shortcomings of the American justice system. The micro-budgeted documentary short reveals not only how wrongful convictions have a detrimental impact on the innocent people who are victimized by the system, but also the inhumane treatment of prisoners who may be guilty, but nonetheless have basic human needs that are not met behind bars.
This heart-wrenching documentary directed by Jia Wertz, explores the aftereffects of growing up in prison after the coerced confession and subsequent conviction of Jeffrey Deskovic for the rape and murder of fifteen-year-old Angela Correa. Correa mysteriously disappeared on November 15, 1989, in Peekskill, New York after going out with a portable cassette player and a camera for a project for her photography class. Two days later, the young girl’s body was found beaten, raped and murdered.
As a sixteen-year-old high school student, Deskovic seems to have been easily manipulated by seasoned detectives which led him to spend sixteen years in a maximum-security prison for a crime he did not commit. The story, told in Deskovic’s own words is an intimate look at the impact such a harrowing experience can have on an individual, their family members and relationships, and the stigma of having gone to prison, innocent or not.
The film shockingly reveals an on-camera confession by the real killer, Steven Cunningham, who seems to barely even remember the events that took place the day of the horrific murder – which left behind two victims, Correa and Deskovic.
Fast forward to current day, audiences are let into Deskovic’s personal world and struggles, such as the difficulties of dating after wrongful imprisonment, going to prison at such a young age, family issues due to the time lost, and after effects that can have an impact on simple day-to-day activities.
For a short film, there is a lot to unpack – the story is engaging, compelling and there are many highs and lows that take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. However the film doesn’t include interviews with family members, friends, or acquaintances as the entire film focuses on Deskovic himself, which does leave a little to be desired. Nonetheless, Conviction is a raw, honest look into the world of a wrongfully convicted man. The ebbs and flows of the experience are told beautifully through Deskovic’s story, with climactic plot twists that lead to an ending that will more than satisfy viewers.
The film was slated to release at the Anthology Film Archives in the East Village in Manhattan in April of this year, but with an official order for all theaters in New York to close as of mid March – just three weeks before the film’s premiere – all screenings have been postponed until further notice.