Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story

Me Facing Life

Cyntoia's Story

  • BY Daniel H. Birman | IN Women & Girls
    Premiered March 1, 2011

About the Film

In 2004, Cyntoia Brown was arrested for murder. There was no question that a 43-year-old man is dead and that she killed him. What mystified filmmaker Daniel Birman was just how common violence among youth is, and just how rarely we stop to question our assumptions about it. He wondered in this case what led a girl — who grew up in a reasonable home environment — to this tragic end? MORE

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story explores Cyntoia’s history and her future. Without attempting to excuse her crime as youthful indiscretion nor to vilify her as an example of a generation gone off the rails, Birman simply follows Cyntoia through six years of her life after the crime, and searches for answers to persistent questions.

The camera first glimpses Cyntoia the week of her arrest at age 16 and follows her for nearly six years. Along the way, nationally renowned juvenile forensic psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet from Vanderbilt University, assesses her situation. We meet Ellenette Brown, Cyntoia’s adoptive mother who talks about the young girl’s early years. Georgina Mitchell, Cyntoia’s biological mother, meets her for the first time since she gave her up for adoption 14 years earlier. When we meet Cyntoia’s maternal grandmother, Joan Warren, some patterns begin to come into sharp focus.

Cyntoia wrestles with her fate. She is stunningly articulate, and spends the time to put the pieces of this puzzle together with us. Cyntoia's pre-prison lifestyle was nearly indistinguishable from her mother's at the same age. History — seemingly predestined by biology and circumstance — repeats itself through each generation in this family.

Cyntoia is tried as an adult, and the cameras are there when she is convicted and sentenced to life at the Tennessee Prison for Women. After the verdict, Cyntoia calls her mom to tell her the news.

In the end, we catch up with Cyntoia as she is adjusting to prison, and struggling with her identity and hope for her future.


The Filmmaker

Daniel H. Birman is the producer and director of Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story. Previously, Birman produced the highly acclaimed documentary Brace for Impact: The Chesley B. Sullenberger Story, which aired on TLC and the Discovery Channel. LESS

Film Credits

Producer, Director, Writer
Daniel H. Birman

Associate Producer
David Eisenberg

Editors
David Eisenberg
Charlton McMillan

Director Of Photography
Daniel H. Birman

Additional Cinematography
Erik Kaufmann

Post Supervision
Erik Kaufmann

Original Music Composition
Dominic Messinger

Audio Post Services
Media City Sound

Sound Mixer
Sam Kauffman

HD Post Production Services
Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging

Online Editor
Christopher D. Lozinski

Colorist
Shaley Brooks

Research and Production Coordination
Alexia Loskutoff
Erica Bardin
Sara Hutchison
Amy Tenowich
Maeia Zimmerman
Megan E. Chao
Adam Reynolds

Field Production Assistant
Aaron M. Birman

Participants
Cyntoia D. Brown
Ellenette Brown
William Bernet, M.D.
Georgina Mitchell
Joan Warren
Jeff Burks
Astrid Heger, M.D.

Music
“Ready For Love”
Performed by India.Arie
Courtesy of Universal Motown Records
Under License from Universal Music Enterprises

Special Thanks

Ross Alderman
Sara Bernstein
David N. Birman
Susanne S. Birman
Ann M. Bradley
Magistrate Sheila Calloway
Dorian Carter
Glenn Cook
Shari Cookson
Karla Crocker
Pat Curran
Davidson County Correctional Development Center – Female
Davidson County Juvenile Justice Center
Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
Dept. of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Granvisse Earl-Young
Kathryn S. Evans
The Honorable Betty Adams Green
Sheriff Daron Hall
John Harleston
Michelle Harleston
Richard McGee
Metropolitan Public Defender’s Office – Juvenile Division
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Lisa Naylor
Rob Robinson
Patricia Shelton
Jewel Steele
Wendy Tucker
James S. Walker, Ph.D.
The Honorable J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story is a production of Daniel H. Birman Productions,Inc.,
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2010 Daniel H. Birman Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

Crimes committed by juveniles have been on the decline since 1994, while the number of minors tried as adults has soared in the same period. Do you believe the adult criminal justice system is the appropriate venue for punishing and rehabilitating minors?
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Crimes committed by juveniles have been on the decline since 1994, while the number of minors tried as adults has soared in the same period. Do you believe the adult criminal justice system is the appropriate venue for punishing and rehabilitating minors?