Alex Luchsinger’s documentary selected for Harlem International Film Festival

The film, "First Chances," chronicles the story and life of Timothy Jackson, a formerly incarcerated California gang member turned successful entrepreneur.

Assistant Professor Alex Luchsinger’s film, “First Chances,” has been selected for the 2020 Harlem International Film Festival. The 25-minute documentary highlights a California man’s entrepreneurial journey after spending nearly nine years in some of the Golden State’s most notorious prisons.

The “First Chances” poster was designed by Katie Kane ’20, a journalism and communication design double major.

“First Chances” has been selected for six festivals this year and is under consideration at several others. Additionally, the film captured an Award of Excellence in the highly competitive faculty documentary category of the 2020 BEA Festival of Media Arts.

“Having my film viewed widely couldn’t be more important than it is right now,” Luchsinger said. “The justice system has long been stacked against minorities – particularly Black men – so I hope this film will play a part in illuminating those disparities and call for real justice reform.”

The film follows Timothy Jackson, a native of Oceanside, California, who became involved with gangs as a youth and was eventually sentenced to 18 years in prison on weapons charges. While incarcerated, he participated in an entrepreneurial program, where he discovered a new sense of confidence and drive. Following his early release for good behavior, Jackson established his own commercial cleaning company, got married and raised a family, mentored at-risk youth, and started attending college.

“I hope audiences realize that people can and do change,” Luchsinger said. “There’s so much stigma around formerly incarcerated people and that’s why such a huge percentage end up back in prison. The system is stacked against people who have been convicted of a felony, and serves to punish, not rehabilitate.”

Luchsinger commended Jackson, calling him an “amazing person” and noting that “his journey is nothing short of remarkable.”

“However, throughout the process of making the film, I met many people either in prison or who served in prison who have enormous talents waiting to be tapped – they just need to be given the chance,” Luchsinger added. “A first chance.”

Luchsinger spent most of 2019 filming in Southern California thanks to funding from Elon’s Faculty Research and Development Summer Fellowship initiative.

Watch the film’s trailer below.