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Special Invitational Selection

Walk with Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith
USA, 2016, 104 min., Color, English
BLOCK 4 It may be the greatest story you never heard.    Walk With Me: The Trials of Judge Damon J. Keith tells the story of ten extraordinary years, four groundbreaking cases, and one unconventional federal judge, whose rulings forever changed the face of civil rights in the United States.  Judge Damon J. Keith was first appointed to the U.S. District Court in Detroit, in 1967, only three months after race riots tore apart the city. A rookie judge and an African American, he faced controversy almost immediately when, in an unusual confluence of circumstance, four divisive cases landed on his docket—all of which concerned hidden discriminatory practices that were deeply woven into housing, education, employment, and police institutions. Keith shook the nation as he challenged the status quo and faced off against angry crowds, the KKK, corporate America, and even a sitting U.S. President.  As Judge Keith was reshaping civil rights at the local level, his rulings began setting precedents for change across the nation. Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld every one of his decisions. There would be no going back.  Walk With Me is deliberately structured as a tapestry, rather than a chronicle, in order to create balance between an intimate portrait and interesting legal history. In his own words, the Judge recounts the significant emotional events that shaped his life, how he came to his decisions on these groundbreaking cases, and his thoughts about the impact of those rulings then, and now. The film interweaves Judge Keith’s life with those of his colleagues, his contemporaries in the struggle for civil rights, his daughters, and most movingly, the people whose lives were changed by his decisions, whether he ruled in their favor or against them.  Now 93, Judge Keith still serves on the US Circuit Court of Appeals; a living embodiment of nearly a century of US history. He was once an ordinary “colored” man; a janitor whose personal struggles reflected those of a nation first coming to terms with civil rights. He became a fearless and extraordinary judge whose rulings resonate with surprising relevance in a nation still arguing about ‘”which lives matter” almost 50 years later.
— Taken from Website:
Screening with: Heroes of Color,
Executive Producer
Mitch Albom
Jesse Nesser
Jesse Nesser, Jack Rossiter-Munley, Patrick Lane
Doug Trevethan- and Gaffer
Reuben Aaronson- Dir. of Photography, Marcus Lovell- Asst. Camera, Lindsay Trevethan- Research Asst., Paul A. Turner III- Archival Producer, , ,
Associate Producer
Sally Davis

Director Bio
Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith is Jesse’s third feature length documentary. His film work has taken him to the Big Sky Country of Montana, the poverty of Haiti, the iconic South of France, the villages of Tanzania,and into the streets and Federal Courthouse of Detroit. His movies are diverse in story and locale, but all explore, in different ways, a very common human experience: the way in which decisions often made with the best intentions don’t always lead us where we think we are going, but can result in remarkable outcomes.   Jesse has a duel degree in political conflict and documentary film. He grew up in several European countries, allowing him to experience a wide range of cultures. He learned from an early age to see the world from different points of view, and cites this as an influence in deciding to pursue documentary film. His work includes freelance directing and editing on diverse projects for the National Endowment for the Arts, Marlboro College, The National Science Foundation, The Southern Vermont Therapeutic Riding Center and Mitlas Productions. Currently Jesse is producing short films for the SAY Detroit Foundation in Detroit, Michigan, The Have Faith Haiti Organization in Port Au Prince, Haiti, and Hospice of Michigan. He recently completed a series of film featurettes for Harper Collins Publishers showcasing musicians including Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Darlene Love,  Wynton Marsalis, Phredley Brown, Paul Stanley  (KISS) and Roger McGuinn (The Byrds) who were featured characters in author Mitch Albom’s latest book, The Magic String of Frankie Presto.   Jesse directed two previous feature films, The Ranch for Kids, and Tanzania.   The Ranch for Kids chronicles the hope and heartbreak of American parents who have adopted orphans from overseas, only to discover the children have severe psychological and behavioral disorders that were not disclosed by the foreign orphanages.  These children now threaten the stability, and even the lives, of their families. The Ranch For Kids screened at the 2015 Trail Dance Film Festival.  The film won Best Documentary Drama at the 2014 Costa Rica International Documentary Film Festival.   Tanzania, follows affluent, naïve and idealistic students from several countries arriving in Africa expecting to change the lives of impoverished villagers, but discovering instead that it is, in fact, their own lives that end up most changed by the experience. Tanzania screened in France.