THE FIRST STEP (2023, doc)

Greetings again from the darkness. The old adage goes, “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.” And there may have never been a stranger pairing than Donald Trump advisor (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner and CNN political contributor and activist Van Jones. The two joined forces to push through a prison reform bill that resulted in 10,000 prisoners gaining early release.

Documentarian Brandon Kramer stuck with Jones during his crusade, and the final product delivers insight into the complex world of politics. Now, you might not consider either Kushner or Jones to be true politicians, but the fact is, they worked together to make the system pay attention to a cause that mattered to both … despite their polar opposite political views. This was red and blue working in unison for a shared cause – just the way the two-party system was designed to work.

However, the most fascinating piece isn’t that republicans and democrats came together for a cause. No, the shocker was the criticism and vitriol Jones received from those on HIS side. It was the democrats and the BLM group who were so adamantly against negotiating with the Trump administration, that they were willing to sacrifice the cause – and those who would benefit. Fortunately, Van Jones, a Yale educated lawyer, is a passionate and intelligent man, and not one easily dissuaded from pursuing what he believes to be righteous causes.

Jones is the kind of guy who, when seated on a panel at a conservative function, gets asked, “Van Jones, what are you doing here?” When discussing the “whitelash” of the 2016 election, Jones proclaims it’s not enough to be anti-Trump; we have to be for something positive. Jones’ personal library includes many volumes that help him “know the enemy.” And his fascination with all things Superman – t shirts, comics, bedspreads – offers some insight into his personality.

The most interesting segment of the documentary features Jones bringing together two diametrically opposed groups for a shared cause. Inner-city Los Angeles folks and rural West Virginia residents couldn’t be any different on their views of Trump, but they do share the pain of drug addictions tearing apart their communities. These two groups try to understand their disparate political views, but mostly they share the desire to rid their communities of the personal tragedies brought on by drugs. Jones uses this to prove how complex the issues are when it comes to prison reform … and sentence reform.

At times, this Kramer documentary feels like cheerleading for Van Jones, but it also shows just how complicated and confusing and emotional political topics can become in the world of Washington DC. The pushback Jones receives from his own side (having a white ex-wife doesn’t help) speaks to how close-minded folks have become, and even though this was filmed during the Trump era, the divide still exists today. The real message to me is that intelligent, persistent crusaders working for a just cause, and willing to deal with those throughout the political spectrum, are today’s real superheroes.

Available on VOD beginning April 4, 2023


2 Responses to THE FIRST STEP (2023, doc)

  1. montrealray says:

    I thank you for this review (and all your other ones I could not do without). I would not have likely watched this documentary were it not for your review. I will now. Thanks again and greetings from the cold north of the 48th.

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