Alex Luchsinger’s documentary ‘First Chances’ to screen online Jan. 14

The Harlem International Film Festival and Columbia University’s Zuckerman Neuroscience Institute will host a free screening of the 25-minute film that highlights Timothy Jackson, a formerly incarcerated California gang member turned successful entrepreneur. The film delves into Jackson’s journey after spending nearly nine years in prison.

Assistant Professor Alex Luchsinger’s film, “First Chances,” has been selected for a special online screening co-hosted by the Harlem International Film Festival and Columbia University’s Zuckerman Neuroscience Institute. The free screening kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 14, followed by a discussion and meditation.

A promotional flyer highlighting the Jan. 14 online screening of “First Chances,” a documentary by Assistant Professor Alex Luchsinger.

This is the second time the New York City-based film festival has chosen to spotlight “First Chances,” having selected the 25-minute film for its 2020 festival program.

Luchsinger’s documentary follows Timothy Jackson, a native of Oceanside, California, who became involved with gangs as an adolescent 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.

Luchsinger expressed excitement at the opportunity to bring Jackson’s remarkable journey to online audiences, where he sees benefits for both viewers and the film’s subject.

“Timothy is such a great human,” the assistant professor said. “People gravitate to him. He inspires. I really want Timothy to finish his college degree because it means so much to him. He just needs the time and resources, so I hope folks will read this and consider helping him realize that goal. Like him, I want his message to inspire others, to provide hope, particularly for communities of color that are disproportionally affected by mass incarceration.”

Following the screening, Luchsinger and Jackson will participate in a discussion with Jeff Gardere, a sought-after psychologist and author, and Robert Fullilove, a renown public health researcher and civil rights activist. The conversation will be moderated by Chandler Phillips of the Sundance Institute. The event will close with a short regenerative meditation led by Keri Ashkenazy, associate director of the Columbia Business School, holistic health coach and meditation instructor.

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

According to Luchsinger, “First Chances” was selected for the screening as part of the co-hosts’ aim at tackling issues of trauma, race and incarceration.

Since its release, “First Chances” has received selection to a half-dozen film festivals , while also capturing an Award of Excellence in the highly competitive faculty documentary category of the 2020 BEA Festival of Media Arts.

Luchsinger credits Elon’s Faculty Research and Development Summer Fellowship initiative for making the documentary possible, providing funding that allowed him to film in Southern California in 2019.