New York-based film and television distributor FilmRise has acquired the theatrical and digital rights to Sabrina Van Tassel’s feature-length social justice documentary, The State of Texas vs. Melissa.
The 97-minute film, which held its digital world premiere as part of the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, serves as a portrait of one woman’s abusive childhood and ensuing struggle against poverty, while also examining “whether the U.S. justice system is truly fair.”
The State of Texas vs. Melissa explores the life and many trials of Melissa Lucio (pictured), who was accused of the abuse and subsequent death of her two-year-old daughter. Lucio – the first Hispanic woman in Texas sentenced to death row – had spent more than 10 years awaiting execution before her conviction was overturned. The State of Texas quickly appealed that ruling and Lucio is now awaiting the State’s appeal.
The film will also explore claims by Lucio’s lawyers that the system was stacked against her; “from the court appointed attorney who did not bring forth certain evidence to the District Attorney who is alleged to have used her case to help his re-election.”
“Sabrina Van Tassel’s powerful documentary raises important questions about our criminal justice system and how it treats vulnerable members of our society,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher in a statement. “We are proud to add this film to our diverse library of documentaries about our criminal justice system.”
The deal was negotiated by FilmRise’s Max Einhorn, VP of acquisitions, and director-producer Sabrina Van Tassel and producer Philippe Bourbon.