Sentenced for Life: Cyntoia's Story 

That any girl can be facing life in prison for a crime she committed at age 16 is mind-boggling enough. But as the circumstances of Nashvillian Cyntoia Brown's case become clear, her sentence seems even more incomprehensible. There's no denying the violence of the crime: Brown shot a john she claims she thought was reaching for a gun.

As Dan Birman's documentary shows, however, it's difficult to understand why Brown was tried as an adult and how the murder could have been premeditated. Nashville's juvenile justice system allowed the filmmaker generous access to Brown, and the footage is compelling and heartbreaking. Particularly devastating are the early interviews, which show that Brown was clearly still a child — not to mention a victim of physical and sexual abuse for as long as she could remember.

Birman's film is still a work in progress. (The title likely will be changed to Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story.) It's a project of Independent Television Service (ITVS), best known for its Emmy-winning Independent Lens series on PBS. This screening at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 17, is presented by ITVS' Community Cinema series, which presents preview screenings and discussions of Independent Lens films monthly at Nashville Public Library. Birman, Ellenette Washington (Brown's mother), Vanderbilt forensic psychiatrist Dr. James Walker and Kathryn Evans (an attorney who worked on Brown's case) will participate in a post-film panel discussion. The screening is free and open to the public.

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