This HBO documentary follows Bryan Stevenson and EJI's struggle to create greater fairness in the criminal justice system.
About the Film
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality follows 30 years of EJI’s work on behalf of the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. The film won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary, and is the winner of the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications’s 26th annual Vision Award and a Peabody Award.
Told primarily in his own words, True Justice shares Bryan Stevenson’s experience with a criminal justice system that “treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.” The burden of facing this system is explored in candid interviews with associates, close family members, and clients.
This feature documentary focuses on Bryan Stevenson’s life and career—particularly his indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system for its role in codifying modern systemic racism—and tracks the intertwined histories of slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration. Highlighting watershed moments involving cases and clients, True Justice offers a rare glimpse into the human struggle that is required when the poor and people of color are wrongly condemned or unfairly sentenced, and explores the personal toll it takes.
The film chronicles EJI’s work in Alabama as well as the early influences that drove Bryan Stevenson to become an advocate for the poor and the incarcerated. As a young lawyer in the 1980s, he witnessed firsthand how courts unfairly applied the death penalty based on race and how the Supreme Court ultimately declared that racial bias in the administration of the death penalty was “inevitable.”
Tracing the trajectory of the Court since the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that African Americans are not citizens, True Justice shows how the Court has long sanctioned inequality, oppression, and violence. Illuminating the power of memory in cultural change, the film instills hope for a brighter American future.
The film also documents the monumental opening of EJI’s Legacy Museum and its National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is dedicated to the more than 4,400 African American victims of lynching. These sites are part of EJI’s effort to engage the nation in a new era of truth and justice. As part of the campaign, EJI is working with communities to recognize lynching victims by collecting soil from lynching sites and erecting historical markers.
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality reveals a history that can’t be forgotten in the pursuit of genuine justice.
Behind the Camera
Six-time Emmy-winner Peter Kunhardt (HBO’s Emmy-winning Jim: The James Foley Story) executive produces and directs; Emmy-winners Teddy Kunhardt and George Kunhardt produce and direct.
Kunhardt Films’s HBO credits include the Emmy-winning Jim: The James Foley Story, the Emmy-winning Teddy: In His Own Words, the Emmy-nominated Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words, the Emmy-nominated Gloria: In Her Own Words, The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee, Becoming Warren Buffett, King in the Wilderness and John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls.
True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality is a co-production of HBO and Kunhardt Films; produced and directed by Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt; executive produced by Trey Ellis and Peter Kunhardt; edited and produced by Maya Mumma, ACE. For HBO: executive produced by Jacqueline Glover, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.
Host a Screening
You can share the feature length version of True Justice by hosting a community screening. Please contact Emily Keating for licensing and permission information: [email protected]. Educator resources that accompany the film, including an Engagement Guide, can be found here.