Last Day of Freedom: A Documentary We Shouldn't Ignore

By Samantha Alsina on February 1, 2016

For any regular Netflix head, it is hard not to notice the number of viewers focused on shows circulating around incarceration and the criminal justice system. Perhaps this is attributed to the growing success of the Black Lives Matter movement or from decades of activists’ work to eliminate jails. Whatever the cause, shows exploring the flaws of the criminal justice system, like Making a Murderer, are growing in popularity, but none can be more compelling or righteous than the Last Day of Freedom. The trailer can be found here.

Academy Award nominated, this is a 32 minute animated documentary short that follows the story of Bill Babbitt as he revisits the moment of discovery that his veteran brother, Manny, committed a crime. Created by UCSC Professor Dee-Hibbert Jones and San Francisco artist Nomi Talisman, the film highlights major social issues ranging from veteran’s care, racism, mental health and the criminal justice system.

 Available for streaming on Netflix, this short film takes on a humanistic perspective on the issue of capital punishment. Despite what one thinks of the death penalty, this is not a movie to miss. If the director’s and animator’s goal was to give voice back to the voiceless, they have succeeded in that. Any viewer will recognize the conflicts of interest involved and no one can deny the questions this documentary raises. The documentary’s narration makes this documentary hard to move away from but the Last Day of Freedom should also be watched for its artistic value.

Its animation certainly brings lightness to a long ignored subject that can be appreciated from any type of viewer. Made from over 30,000 drawings, the animation beautifully captures the image of Manny as brother and son. The simple coloring of the animation with the composition of the frames furthers a sense of both nostalgia and remorse. The music score is notable too, for its emotional charge.

 The choice to animate the film made this documentary even the more compelling for it reveals the complexity of factors involved in Manny’s case.

 Living in a time where the criminalization of black youth and the mentally ill continues to persist, watching this documentary is the chance to envision the answers to the questions being posed for our generation today. How can we effectively address the injustices of the criminal justice system? Is capital punishment necessary? How can we better ensure a fair trial?

Watch this documentary, and let me know what you think.

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