USA / 2002 / English / Color / 35mm (1:1.85) / 145 min
Director, Narrator: Steve James
Photography: Dana Kupper, Gordon Quinn, Peter Gilbert
Editing: Steve James, William Haugse
Sound: Adam Singer, Jim Fetterely, Tom Yore
Music: Dirk Powell
Executive Producers: Robert May, Gordon Quinn
Producers: Steve James, Adam Singer, Gordon Quinn
Production Company, Source: Kartemquin Films
World Sales: Film Transit International
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In 1995 the director returned to southern Illinois to reunite with Stevie, a boy he had met through a “Big Brother” volunteer program. During filming Stevie committed a serious crime and was arrested, tearing his family apart. Over a five-year period, the film documents Stevie and his turbulent family. The director’s concern for Stevie can be felt palpably by the viewer.
[Directors Statement] I was attending Southern Illinois University when, at the urging of my wife Judy, I became Stevie Fielding’s Advocate Big Brother. Eleven-year-old Stevie was a difficult, hyperactive kid, living a sad and troubled life in Pomona, a rural hamlet of southern Illinois. I ended my formal duties to him in 1985 when I moved to Chicago to begin my film career. In my journal, I wrote that “I must not run from those years with Stevie as if they were a tour of duty that, thank God, has now ended. I owe it to him to stay in touch.” Yet despite such admonitions to myself, I did just that. I lost complete contact with him for nearly ten years.
In 1995, I reconnected with Stevie and, with his permission, began this film about him. At the time, I thought Stevie would be a search to discover not only what had happened to him over the past ten years, but to understand the forces that had shaped his entire life. I wanted to understand Stevie in a way that I, and others had failed to all those years earlier. Indeed, on a personal level, I wanted to make this film as an act of atonement for my own failures to reach him, when I was his Big Brother.
But during filming, Stevie was arrested for a very serious crime. This changed the scope and direction of the film. Instead of a modest, portrait study of a troubled boy-man, Stevie became a four-and-a-half- year odyssey following the unfolding drama of Stevie’s case and the profound impact it had on his family, his fiancée, and even me.
Through the intertwining lives of all of these characters, Stevie speaks about the complex realities of rural poverty, class, growing up, family history, and how the system has—despite often good intentions—failed to rescue kids like Stevie. My hope is that this film will force viewers—as my Big Brother experience and making this film did for me—to come to grips with the life of a “victim”—a life-long victim—whose life has now taken a scary and deeply troubling turn.
Director, producer and editor of both documentary and fiction films. Made his feature-length documentary debut with Hoop Dreams (1994), which was screened in the International Competition at YIDFF ’95, nominated for an Academy Award for editing, and won an A.C.E. Editing Award. Went on to direct the fiction feature Prefontaine (1997). Currently working as an executive producer, director and series editor for the documentary series The New Americans (PBS), which follows the lives of contemporary immigrants and refugees. Stevie is his second feature-length documentary.