Dir. Adams J. Wood, USA, 2020, 11 min.

Screening virtually and at SECCA on Saturday, May 8 @ 8:30 p.m. Learn more here.

In a mere 11 minutes, “Just Over The Line” tackles the imbalance of power in the criminal justice system, specifically across two counties in Asheville.

The film focuses on Daniel Noell, a man arrested for drug trafficking in Yancey and Buncombe Counties. Though the charges are the same, he is given significantly more time in Yancey County compared to Buncombe County simply because of the judge.

“A lot of the film is based on phone calls with Daniel,” said director Adams J. Wood. “We still talk about once a week, and I have learned so much from things that he has shared about life in prison and his life before. It’s been really eye-opening for me, and it’s been rewarding to get to know him, beyond making the film.”

The viewers learn about his mother and sister, both of whom died while Daniel was incarcerated, and Daniel’s daughters, who are waiting for his release.

The film also incorporates context, specifically how the judges in any given county have almost total control over how long a person is incarcerated, within the parameters of the charge. There is also background information that traced the effects of the Nixon-era War on Drugs and how policies from the 1990s hurt people like Noell today.

Wood’s previous documentaries have focused mainly on the environment, but he does not think of this film as much of a stretch.

“The environment you’re in influences the choices you make to survive,” he said, “and in our system, some of those choices can lead to incarceration, especially if you’re poor and Black.”

Daniel has been incarcerated for four years this June. He had been sentenced to six years in June 2017.

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