17 Blocks (2019)

Director: Davy Rothbart Run Time: 96 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 2021

Starring: Akil 'Smurf' Sanford, Cheryl Sanford, Denice Sanford-Durant, Emmanuel Durant Jr., Justin Sanford

Country: United States
Language: English

Presented in the Virtual Screening Room in partnership with Tuckman Media.

“More than just a singular achievement in documentary filmmaking, 17 Blocks is the result of the Sanford family’s profound act of bravery.”

Mark Keizer, Variety

About the film:

17 Blocks earned more than 25 festival awards including Best Editing in a Documentary Film for Jennifer Teixiera at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Director Davy Rothbart was also nominated for the Truer Than Fiction Award recognizing emerging directors of non-fiction at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

In 1999, nine-year-old Emmanuel Sanford-Durant and his Washington, D.C. family began to film their daily lives in America’s most dangerous neighborhood — just 17 blocks behind the U.S. Capitol building. They’ve been filming ever since.

Made in a unique collaboration with filmmaker and journalist Davy Rothbart, the film focuses on four generations of the Sanford Family, including Emmanuel, a promising student, his brother Smurf, a local drug dealer, his sister Denice, an aspiring cop, and his mother Cheryl, who must conquer her own demons for her family to prosper.

Spanning two decades, 17 Blocks illuminates a nation’s ongoing crisis through one family’s raw, stirring, and deeply personal saga.

About the filmmakers:

Davy Rothbart is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, bestselling author and journalist, co-creator and editor of Found Magazine, and frequent contributor to public radio’s This American Life. His compassion and focus on real human connections have guided his storytelling in every medium.

In 2003, he wrote an Op-Ed for The New York Times sharing a conversation where he asked Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to mediate real-life disputes between neighbors. In his 2013 book How Did You End Up Here?: The Surprising Ways Our Questions Connect Us, Rothbart shares his insights on the value of seeking out conversations with strangers. Guiding the next generation, Rothbart also participates in the youth creative writing programs 826 National, 826michigan, and 826LA.

He co-directed the documentary Medora following a struggling high school basketball team in an economically devastated Midwest town. The film premiered at SXSW 2013 then aired on the PBS series Independent Lens and earned an Emmy Award in 2015. Rothbart also previously directed two documentaries about activist punk rock band Rise Against.

Hear about his emotional experience filming 17 Blocks in an interview for the IDA Documentary Screening Series for IndieWire.

Executive producer, co-writer and film editor of 17 Blocks, Jennifer Tiexiera is an acclaimed storyteller committed to diverse, inclusive representation. She is a co-founder of female-run production company Lady & Bird, and her award-winning films have screened at Venice, Toronto, Tribeca, SXSW, and Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, she co-directed P.S. Burn this Letter Please revealing the secret history of New York’s LGBT community in the early 1950s. The film won the Audience Award for Documentary Feature at the 2020 OutFest Film Festival.

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MAJOR SUPPORT
Ohio Arts Council
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Campus Partners
WITH HELP FROM
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WOSU Public Media

Trailer