Two thumbs for “The Mayor of Graterford”, another in a series of outstanding films that have been created as part of Villanova’s Social Justice Documentary class.
Here is some info about the film from the Villanova web site:
The Mayor of Graterford follows Tyrone Werts, a former Graterford prisoner nicknamed the “Mayor of Graterford” by other inmates at the facility, who was sentenced to life without parole in 1975 for second degree murder following a crime committed by his friend. During his time at Graterford, Tyrone received his GED, as well as a degree from Villanova University. Tyrone served more than 36 years with an impeccable prison record until his sentence was commuted in 2010. Commutation is the only outlet through which prisoners serving a life sentence can argue their case in hopes of gaining their freedom. “The Mayor of Graterford tells the story of an ex-con reuniting with the men who became like his family over the decades he spent incarcerated and details the commutation process in Pennsylvania,” said Jack McCarthy, student director of the film.
The film also follows John Pace, a former juvenile lifer who was released after serving 30 years in prison for a crime committed when he was 17-years-old. (Juvenile lifers were granted their right to parole following the 2012 Supreme Court case Miller v. Alabama, which held that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. A later Supreme Court case, Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), ensured that this decision applies retroactively for juveniles currently serving life sentences.) Pace now works alongside Werts with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which helps newly freed inmates reintegrate into society. Together, Pace and Werts advocate for the friends and fellow lifers they left behind, and have become role models in the fight for prison reform.
The film had its premiere tonight before a packed cinema on Villanova’s campus. Tyrone and John were both there, along with two faculty who have taught at Graterford, and the 15 students who were part of the class.
During the Q&A after the film, each and every student indicated what a life-changing experience it was to be part of the documentary. During their visits to Graterford they all got the chance to know the prisoners as people, not inmates, and were grateful for such an opportunity.
A special shout-out to the faculty who run the social justice documentary class -Stephen McWilliams, John O’Leary, and Matthew Marencik; it is obviously a labor of love, and they are making a difference in the lives of the students in the class. They are also bringing awareness to key issues related to social justice to not only the Villanova community, but to the surrounding region as well.
Villanova’s documentary program is funded by the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, and Elaine and David Nord. Each year, the students in the program create their own production companies and their films have screened across the globe. Several have advanced to become finalists in the Student Academy Awards competition.
Housed in the Communication Department, the Waterhouse Institute emphasizes the vital role of communication in the creation of a more just world. Consistent with the Waterhouse Institute’s mission, the Social Justice Documentary Program teaches students the importance of Communication in creating social change.
This was the fifth film we have seen produced by students in this program, and every student who has been involved in the program has noted its life-changing impact. You couldn’t ask for more than that from a college course.
So congratulations once again to all involved in bringing “The Mayor of Graterford” to the big screen, and for doing work that matters.
Here is a trailer from “The Mayor of Graterford”, followed by a link to a separate blog post that lists the previous films in the documentary series, as well as some 0f my previous blog posts that examined some of those films.
Villanova’s Social Justice Documentary Filmography (in process)