Yale Law Students Win Acclaim As Filmmakers
In 2011, the students made "Alienation," which follows the story of two families swept up in a 2007 Baltimore immigration raid. The same year also saw the release of "Stigma," which explores the impact of the "stop and frisk" initiative on young men of color in New York City.
Couvillion said the goal is to complete one project each semester. The group just screened a "rough cut" of its latest project for some fellow students in order to get feedback. That film, tentatively titled "Beatwalker," is a 30-minute exploration of the New Haven Police Department's new community policing methods.
Couvillion explained that New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman, who took over last year, is bringing back the strategy of emphasizing a community approach to fight crime. She said he has police officers out "walking beats" and interacting more with community leaders rather than simply patrolling in vehicles.
In 2011, New Haven had one of its worst years for murders, with 34. That number was cut in half in 2012, the first year of the new approach. Jessica So said that Esserman was very helpful in the making of the film, even arranging for the students to ride around with a lieutenant.
Students also did research on policing methods and did a lot of pre-interviewing to see which New Haven residents had interesting stories to tell. After that, the filmmakers did on-camera interviews, and captured footage of people in their daily lives.
Throughout the process, the group members meet regularly to offer updates on all the different tasks that go into making a documenatry. The group is currently in the post-production stage of "Beatwalker."
"We explain through this film what is community policing, what does it entail," said Jessica So. "It emphasizes interactions between police officers and community members where people feel like the relationship is there, police care about the community to better provide safety for citizens rather than respond in a command and control type of process."
Couvillion said one group member is charged with promoting and distributing the finished projects. The members try to get screenings wherever possible, whether at other universities or before public interest groups.
To date, the work garnering the most publicity for the group is their documentary film about solitary confinement for the state's worst offenders that are imprisoned at Northern Correctional Institute in Somers, Conn. "That film took us a whole year and a half to complete," said Couvillion.