In a divided America, Van Jones controversially works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America's addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities.
Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself.
While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.
THE FIRST STEP is an independent production of Meridian Hill Pictures (CITY OF TREES, PBS, Netflix) and Magic Labs Media
(THE MESSY TRUTH, Webby Award Winner), in association with Kartemquin Films (MINDING THE GAP, Hulu, Oscar Nomination)
and Big Mouth Productions (DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD, Netflix) and the editorial talent behind KING IN THE WILDERNESS (HBO,
Sundance) and BIRTH OF THE COOL (PBS, Sundance).
An 8 Above Theatrical Release: Opening theatrically in New York on February 17 (DCTV Firehouse), Washington, D.C. on February 19 (JxJ Theater), Los Angeles on February 24 (Laemmle Royal Theater) with additional screenings in key cities in February and March 2023.
VOD Release details to follow.
New York - February 17 - DCTV Firehouse (1 week run)
Washington, D.C. - February 19 - JxJ Theater (1 week run)
Los Angeles - February 24 - Laemmle Royal Theater (1 week run)
Director: Brandon Kramer
Producer: Lance Kramer
8 Above Presents A Meridian Hill Pictures and Magic Labs Media Production In association with Fork Films, Artemis Rising Foundation, Hidden Empire Film Group, Kartemquin Films and Big Mouth Productions
Director of photography: Emily Topper
Editors: Steven Golliday, Natasha Livia Mottola, Leslie Simmer
Composer: Joshua Abrams
Executive producer: Jana Carter
Executive producers: Abibail E. Disney, Regina K. Scully, Robert F. Smith, Deon & Roxanne Taylor, Brad Buhr and Bryanna Sapp, Christina & David Arquette, Daniel S. Loeb
Co-executive producers: Clara Wu Tsai, Felicia & Jules Horowitz
Director of photography: Emily Topper
Original music: Joshua Abrams
Original song: Aloe Blacc
a film by Meridian Hill Pictures, Magic Labs Media in association with Fork Films Artemis Rising Foundation, Hidden Empire Film Group, Kartemquin Films and Big Mouth Productions
Louis L. Reed is the Sr. Director of Membership and Partnerships for the REFORM Alliance. He brings to the REFORM Alliance years of experience in government, criminal justice expertise, policy advocacy, public health, and personal impact, serving nearly 14 years in federal prison and several years on supervision. Louis is a board-certified addictions counselor and licensed alcohol & addictions practitioner.
More information: https://www.louislreed.org
Van Jones is a media personality, an entrepreneur and change maker — who has dedicated his career to bringing people together in clean energy solutions, criminal justice reform and racial inclusion in the tech sector. In 2007, Van was the primary champion of the Green Jobs Act, signed into law by George W. Bush. In 2009, he worked in the Obama White House as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs. Over the past 25 years, Van has founded and led social enterprises including REFORM Alliance, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, Green For All and the Dream Corps. He worked with Prince to launch #YesWeCode (now called Dream Corps TECH) to get jobs in the tech sector for low-opportunity young people. Van is also a CNN host, an Emmy Award-winning producer and a 3X New York Times best-selling author.
Brandon Kramer (Director)
Brandon is a Washington, DC-based filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon directed CITY OF TREES (Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, national broadcast on PBS' America Reframed, Netflix); and the Webby Award-winning documentary series THE MESSY TRUTH. Brandon won Best Director at the 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival and Indie Capital Awards, received the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and was a 2022 and 2015 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Individual Arts Fellow. Brandon has directed over 30 short documentaries commissioned by public agencies and nonprofits including AARP and US Institute of Peace. Before starting MHP, Brandon served as a teaching artist for the John F. Kennedy Center’s national media education program. Brandon holds a bachelor’s degree in film and cultural anthropology from Boston University.
About 8 Above (Distributor)
8 ABOVE is a theatrical distributor and rights management partner dedicated to connecting award-winning independent films with audiences. Working in close partnership with filmmakers, 8 ABOVE develops strategies that build community and social impact around unique theatrical experiences. Founded by distribution pioneer Jon Reiss, 8 ABOVE has developed bespoke audience-building strategies and theatrical campaigns for independent films, specialty films, and documentaries, including Hooligan Sparrow, Two Gods, The Disrupted, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, Sweetheart Dancers, Surviving Sex Trafficking, Nasrin, and No Small Matter.
Publicity/ For further information please contact: Emma Griffiths PR // email@example.com