The 16-Year-Old Killer: Cyntoia’s Story


Cyntoia Brown at 16


This documentary takes us through the trial of Cyntoia Brown, charged with first-degree murder of a 43-year-old man. He was her client, and she was a 16-year-old prostitute.

The filmmaker, Daniel Birman, was granted unique access to Cyntoia from the week of her arrest, throughout her trial and over a period of six years. What we get is a cinema verite style film, as we are led through the events of Cyntoia’s life, step by step.

I decided to do a blog about this documentary because one of my frustrations about my current documentary project is that we are not allowed to film inside certain places. For example, so far, we have been denied access inside the courthouse where Tio Hardiman went to file a lawsuit against Ceasefire. We were denied access inside the establishment where he filed for unemployment income.

It was refreshing to see a documentary where the cameras went inside the prison and inside the courtroom, simply unrestricted access. We will, however, do our best with the access we do get.

I noticed that the film went deep into Cyntoia’s history – it explored the history of abuse, violence, drugs and prostitution in her family, spanning three generations. It was as though the directors and editors were saying, “This is why she ended up with such a troubling life at 16 years old. I am therefore reminded that my documentary must have some “meat,” some context, something deep, something beneath the surface. It must show evidence of research.

Criticisms? None. The film touched me to the core. I don’t know what the filmmaker could have done differently.

I enjoy these documentary blog critiques because it helps us to think, learn more and develop our own skills toward our projects.



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