Tribal Justice

PBS Premiere: Aug. 21, 2017Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

In July 2017, POV asked Tribal Justice filmmaker Anne Makepeace what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

What have Chief Judges Abby Abinanti and Claudette White been up to since the film?
Both judges continue on in their terrific work with tribal members in their courtrooms. Also, it has been wonderful to meet up with one or both of them at film festivals.

In addition to festivals, both judges have led discussions at screenings at numerous conferences. Abby attended a screening at UCLA and Harvard Law Schools, both sponsored by the Native American Law Students' Association. Claudette and our consultant Jennifer Walter led a discussion following a screening at a conference on Ethnic Fairness in the Courts in St. Louis, and there are many more to come.

Have you kept up with Taos and his family since the film?
Yes - I had the pleasure of seeing them last month (June 2017) at the Mendocino Film Festival where they joined me for the Q+A. This was a very moving event.
The screening at the Mendocino Film Festival was truly profound. Taos Proctor and Kelly Gibson, who are featured in the film, joined me for the Q+A, moderated by veteran filmmaker and old friend Pat Ferrero. It was the first time Taos and Kelly had seen the film, a scary moment for any filmmaker when the people one has come to care about see themselves onscreen for the first time. Their stories in Tribal Justice are so raw and personal, with many challenges, setbacks and triumphs. One of the wonderful things that happened was a testimonial from a Pomo couple from a local tribe who were in the audience. They didn't know Taos or Kelly, but early in the Q+A, they thanked them for opening themselves to the filming, and spoke eloquently of how much their stories will help Native communities around the country. I think this comment put Taos and Kelly at ease and also made them feel proud of all they had given to the film.

Are there any developments with Isaac since we last saw him?
Isaac is still in prison in Tucson, but his aunt, Judge Claudette White, has been in touch with him and says he is working on his GED there. He will be out next year and let's hope he can stay on track and build a better life.

How has this film been received by Quechan and Yurok tribes?
I haven't yet done screenings on the Quechan or Yurok reservations yet, but those who have seen it from the tribes have universally praised and loved it.

What impact have you seen or do you hope to see this film have on the justice systems of or relationships between the tribes and the states?
As Judge Timothy Connors, Michigan State Chief Judge, wrote:
"Tribal Justice is an eloquent song, a song of resiliency and hope. It is a song that needs to be sung in every state court justice system. In this film, Tribal Judges Abananti and White show us how. We owe them deep gratitude for sharing this gift. Timothy Connors. Presiding Judge. Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court."

That's my goal - to influence law students, lawyers, judges and court staff in both tribal and state courts to work together, and for state courts to be inspired and influenced by the humane forms of justice portrayed in Tribal Justice.

What are you working on now?
Promoting Tribal Justice to conferences, organizations, law schools, etc., and attending as many screenings as I can.