In 2008 David McKay and Bradley Crowder, both in their early twenties, traveled from Austin, Tx., to St. Paul, Minn., to protest at the Republican National Convention. They were accompanied by several of their friends, including an older, charismatic revolutionary who had taken them under his wing. They had planned for a peaceful protest, but when they reached St. Paul, things took a dark turn.
The pair was arrested for making eight homemade bombs, which were never actually used. As the case developed, the two defendants learned that the FBI had been using an informant for the past six months to gain information about them.
A new documentary, Better This World, follows the story of the “Texas Two” as they wrestle with how to defend themselves in court and deal with FBI pressure to betray each other. Producers Katie Galloway, Kelly Duane de la Vega, and Mike Nicholson go beyond the court case into a more complicated story about the use of informants in the post-9/11 era.
As the story unravels onscreen, so does the FBI’s case against McKay and Crowder. While Crowder took a plea deal, McKay fought the charges, claiming that his was a case of entrapment by the FBI informant. Throughout the year-long ordeal, both McKay and Crowder, who are not allowed to communicate with each other, remain loyal, refusing to give into pressure from the FBI to rat on the other.
Art Beat talked to Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.:
“There were a lot of complicated moral, legal, ethical storytelling questions with this film,” says Galloway.
The criminal justice system isn’t new territory for them. Both Duane de la Vega’s and Galloway’s fathers were criminal defense attorneys who had actually worked together on cases — something they discovered after they teamed up.
“I think when you’re reared up in hearing these stories — that both have a lot of respect for the justice system [but] also really expose[s] you to the injustices within it,” said de la Vega, “there’s something that draws you to participate.”