The Sentence


Friday, Nov. 9 at 7:00pm
Missouri History Museum

First-time filmmaker Rudy Valdez’s “The Sentence” — which won an Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — offers a searing look at the consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing. The documentary tells the story of his sister Cindy Shank, a mother of three who received a 15-year mandatory sentence for conspiracy charges related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s crimes. “The Sentence” draws on hundreds of hours of footage shot by Valdez, who initially copes with his sister’s incarceration by filming the family moments Shank misses in prison. In the midst of Shank’s sentence, Valdez discovers his voice as a filmmaker and activist, and during the last months of the Obama administration’s clemency initiative, the family starts to fight for Shank’s release. The aching question at the core of this deeply personal portrait is whether their attempts to free Shank will succeed. The Hollywood Reporter writes: “Based on the 10 minutes of extended sniffling and even sobbing that filled the theater during its premiere, Rudy Valdez's ‘The Sentence,’ showing as part of the U.S. Documentary Competition at Sundance, plays like gangbusters.”

83 min.

Directed by

Rudy Valdez



Film Category

Leon & Mary Strauss Documentary Spotlight Mean Streets: Viewing the Divided City Through the Lens of Film and Television


Latino Legal Issues Policing/Criminal Justice


With an introduction and post-film discussion by Tila Neguse, coordinator of The Divided City Initiative at the Center for the Humanities at Washington University.

Film Website

Official Website