Independent Film: “Jacinta” Delivers a Clear and Compassionate Portrayal of Abuse, Poverty, and Prison


A movie can’t change anything, except when it does.

It would be nice if every well-meaning movie about injustice, prejudice, or one of the myriad other terrible things in this world eliminated the problem, but it never happened. However, a truly inspiring film can certainly spur an individual into action, and the resulting ripples can go a lot deeper than you might think.

On November 5, PMA Films – the lovingly and adventure-programmed in-house film exhibition arm of the Portland Museum of Art – presents director Jessica Earnshaw’s 2020 documentary, “Jacinta.” The powerfully human and lucid portrayal of the title woman, “Jacinta,” follows Jacinta Hunt, 26, as she, recently released from the Maine Correctional Center, tries to stay clean and sober, reconnecting with her sunshine. 10-year-old daughter, and to avoid the pitfalls and family influences that landed Hunt in the same prison alongside her mother, Rosemary.

Director Jessica Earnshaw has made a film that humanizes a woman’s cycle of abuse and her efforts to end it. Photo by Nancy Borowick

Earnshaw is a deeply compassionate film that, nonetheless, shows the harsh realities of how cycles of abuse and poverty often see destructive patterns repeat themselves in a family in seemingly inevitable ways. Except that the Hyacinth of “Jacinta” is shown struggling against these influences in a stubborn but stammering march towards sobriety, employment and motherhood, determined to tear herself away from the current which still holds her in suspense. “Jacinta” is not an easy movie, nor is it a hopeful movie, not exactly. But Earnshaw’s take on this all too familiar story is deeply and restorative human.

For Jon Courtney, PMA programmer and Portland film specialist, reserving “Jacinta” is just the latest of his curatorial efforts to deliver the best, most empowering films and, in the case of “Jacinta “, most relevant to the Mainers. in the city. It is also a natural consequence of the effect an equally moving documentary on the penal system had on Courtney when he booked “The Work” by Jarius McLeary and Gethin Aldous in 2018. This film, on a program A group therapy session between troubled free men and incarcerated men is a fascinating look at how patterns of toxic masculinity reproduce themselves over and over again. It was also the film that set Courtney on her own path to calling attention to the plight of the incarcerated and how America’s broken systems – both inside and outside of it. justice system – operate with ruthless efficiency to keep generations of people behind bars.

“’The Work’ has been a major catalyst for this,” Courtney said. “I imagined that I would end up, maybe when I was retired, to become one of those chair researchers in the Innocence Project. But seeing this film made me realize that it was not enough for me. Since 2018 families impacted by contact with the penal system. (Courtney is a friend and I made a donation.)

So when Courtney saw that the director of “Jacinta” Earnshaw was going to be in Maine for a screening of her film at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center on November 4, he quickly seized the opportunity to book “Jacinta” for the PMA this week. following day, but to invite the director and the subject of her film to attend. With two free screenings at the PMA at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on November 5, viewers will have the opportunity to meet and ask questions of both Earnshaw (on both shows) and Hunt herself (at the 2 p.m. screening) . For Courtney, letting these women tell their own stories about the effects of the criminal justice system is very much in keeping with her own deep understanding of the ever-pressing topic.

“Prison is a place of extreme injustice, and we have a really broken system in this country,” Courtney said. “And it affects everyone. People on the outside are dehumanized themselves, able to tolerate a system that locks down and throws key people out for the worst day of their lives, for the worst thing they’ve ever done. There is no sense of healing or reconciliation, neither for the offenders nor for the victims, no effort to deal with the evil. Imprisonment in America is only meant to deal with the offense to the state, but not to the victims at all as well. “

“Jacinta,” according to Courtney – and I agree – is a startling and honest description of the tangled mess that lands so many young Mainers in prison and serves to keep them there. “This movie is super complex about how we even think about crime to begin with. Race, class, wealth – they all take into account the arbitrariness of who is considered a “bad guy” and who is not. This means not examining the whole of how people were themselves victimized growing up, the effects of untreated and undiagnosed trauma related to military service, mental illness and sexual, emotional and physical abuse in Household chores.

Indeed, “Jacinta” does not spare because her central figure gradually reveals the truly heartbreaking details of a childhood strewn with these formative traumas, which all go back through her family as far as we can remember.

Courtney congratulates Earnshaw and Hunt for telling the story of a young Mainer so eloquently and frankly. Hunt herself has been released from prison, sober for six months, and working several jobs in an attempt to reconnect with her daughter.

“Spending time with a complex woman who suffers tremendous harm” is how Courtney described “Jacinta”, calling the experience a necessary corrective to the “us versus them” mindset that too many people have when it comes to life. it is about those. who were affected by incarceration. “That tells the horrible truth, but with the polite purpose a little bit,” he said, adding, ““ Jacinta ”is a vivid example of what this person’s childhood was like, of the resources that ‘she didn’t have and the pain she caused.’ Jacinta ‘is a perfect and powerful vehicle for seeing, beyond someone’s worst times, the possibilities of transformation and hope. “

“Jacinta” will screen at PMA Films at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on November 5, in partnership with Recovery Maine and the Points North Institute’s Recovery in Maine program. Filmmaker Earnshaw will be on both shows for a question-and-answer session, while Hunt, the subject of the film, will be at the 2pm screening. Tickets are free, but advance seat reservations through PMA Films are encouraged.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

This story was updated at 3 p.m. Tuesday to correct the director’s first name.

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