As an avid moviegoer, as well as a cinematic arts minor, I consider myself a major film junkie. Recently, I attended the first weekend of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, a non-profit organization that gives independent filmmakers a place to showcase their work. Sundance is an event for storytellers to publicly screen their work and find a platform for their art form to be distributed.

During my time at Sundance, I was able to watch movies which are not currently released to the public. Following the screening of each film, I had the opportunity to hear directors, cast, and crewmembers engage with the audience through a Q&A. Having the chance to hear directors speak about their work, meet them, and watch independent films before they're released to the public contributed to my passion for film.

Of the films I watched, the documentary, The Sentence, stood out to me the most. The film was directed by Rudy Valdez and followed his sister, Cindy's, fifteen-year prison sentence due to her knowledge of her deceased ex-boyfriend's crimes. The documentary followed Cindy's family members through interviews over the time of her sentence and showcased the struggles that families face when a member receives the mandatory minimum sentencing. The first-time filmmaker, Rudy, beautifully captured this ongoing battle through emotional interviews with Cindy's three young daughters, husband, and family members. The interviews of Cindy's daughters were impactful because they revealed how her daughters outgrew their naïve mindset and began to acknowledge how their mother's circumstances deprived them of a relationship with her. Ultimately, the documentary worked to create a call for action to change the mandatory minimum sentencing program in the United States. A week after the premiere of Rudy's film, HBO purchased The Sentence, which will distribute the documentary to a large-scale audience. HBO's purchase signifies the ideal dream of filmmakers who have brought their work to Sundance.

Aside from the festival itself, I attended the USC Sundance 2018 Film Festival Party where I met fellow USC students as well as USC alumni. As a current undergraduate student at USC, it was eye-opening to see how many fellow Trojans were at the film festival presenting their work. While at the event, the meaning of "Trojan Family" was evident as attendees were enthusiastic about meeting one another which created a feeling of familiarity. After my time at Sundance Film Festival, I feel encouraged to pursue my dream to create a successful film, following the footsteps of my fellow Trojans.

Meet Rudy Valdez, director of The Sentence.