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by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker Jessica Earnshaw took a three-year journey to document a fascinating narrative about a mother and a daughter, who were incarcerated together and both suffer from addiction and crime, in her feature documentary called Jacinta. Earnshaw concentrates mostly on the daughter, Jacinta and her struggle to be free of the cyclical effects of trauma over generations with addiction, incarceration, and crime.

Earnshaw was working on a photography project in 2016 at the Maine Correctional Center on aging in American prisons. She says, "I was photographing an elderly woman when I met Rosemary, age 46, who was friends with her." Earnshaw continues, "I got to know Rosemary over time, and I learned that her daughter, Jacinta, age 26 was also incarcerated at the same prison." The aging in prison project came to a close and Earnshaw asked if Rosemary and Jacinta would like to participate in her next photography essay that would center on a handful of women in the prison on drug related crimes. They both agreed.

After learning about their complex family dynamic and love for one another Earnshaw felt it would be fascinating to portray their story on film.

Earnshaw begins the journey with the mother and daughter at the Maine Correctional Center.  Jacinta and Rosemary are both inmates at the same time. One observes that the co-dependent relationship is loving, strong, and over time, destructive. Earnshaw explains, "As a child, Jacinta became entangled in her mother's world of drugs and crime that has followed her in-and-out of the correctional system since she was a teenager."

Earnshaw accompanies Jacinta when she is released from prison and is excited to maintain her sobriety and reconnect with her own daughter, Caylynn, who is now ten-years-old and lives with her paternal grandparents. Jacinta communicates to Earnshaw that she is adamant that her story will not going end with her descending into addiction.

Sadly, a relapse occurred and Earnshaw wasn't sure she should continue following Jacinta with her camera. She had to ask herself, if she was being sensitive to Jacinta's struggle, or if she might be adding to unrealistic expectations at this stage of Jacinta's rehabilitation. At this point, the two conversed about going forward. Jacinta really wanted her story to be told. She was confident she would conquer her addiction and hoped that the film would be a teaching tool for others. The shoot continued.

Earnshaw committed to following Jacinta over the course of three and half years. Earnshaw describes, "I shot over 450 hours, at least half of which was in the first twelve months." Adding, "I came to understand the deep roots of Jacinta's addiction, the impossible entanglement of trauma and love within her family; and, her desire to give her daughter a better life separate from her." Earnshaw continues, "By exploring the nuances of multigenerational trauma, I hope the film will inspire new ways of looking at the cycles of addiction, incarceration and crime." Concluding, Earnshaw says, "In doing so, hopefully we can provide better support to women like Jacinta so that they can create a healthier future for themselves and the next generation."

Jessica Earnshaw was awarded the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award for her film Jacinta. She received honorable accolades including these Jury comments: "Incredibly engaging filmmaking," "very moving, beautifully done."