Independent Lens Premieres Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, Tuesday, March 1
The August 25, 2006, headline on WSMV.com/news blared “Teenager Found Guilty Of Murdering Real Estate Agent,” and was followed by a short news story: “NASHVILLE, Tenn. — … a Davidson County criminal court on Friday night found Cyntoia Brown guilty in the August 2004 shooting death of Antioch real estate agent Johnny Allen. The jury deliberated for a little less than six hours before returning the verdict…Brown was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. The jury found her guilty as charged on all counts. Brown will serve a life sentence on the murder charge…”
For many, this story of a teen prostitute who killed a client had reached a fitting conclusion. For producer/director Daniel H. Birman, it was another punctuation mark in a long, sad narrative. Birman began filming Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story the week Brown was arrested, hoping to find answers to questions about violence among youth. He followed the story for six years, making the documentary, a revealing—often heartbreaking—tale of a life wasted.
Brown was born to a sixteen-year-old mother, as an infant passed from home to home, and then adopted by a loving mom and “tough [abusive?] father.” At the age of 16 she made a series of horrible choices—running away from home, becoming involved with an abusive addict who pimped her out, among others—that resulted in a minimum of 51 years in prison for this teenager tried as an adult.
Viewers will learn of a family history that includes mental illness, drug addiction, and suicide. Was Brown a victim of genetics? Was she a cold-blooded murderer intent on robbing and killing? Or was she sincerely afraid for her life?
Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story is not the easiest film to watch; it challenges our beliefs and preconceptions while exposing parts of society that many would prefer not to see.
See Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story on Tuesday, March 1, at 10:00 p.m./Eastern, on Independent Lens (PBS). Check local area listings for time and channel.