Promotional poster for the film
|Directed by||Boaz Dvir|
|Written by||Boaz Dvir|
Jessie's Dad is a 2011 documentary film by Boaz Dvir. The film tells the story of Mark Lunsford, and his transformation from an uneducated truck driver to a child activist after the murder of his daughter Jessica by a convicted child molester. As of June, 2016, the film is currently on Hulu, available to the public.
Before his daughter's murder, the tattooed, long-haired Harley rider drove a dump truck, lived with his church-going parents and spent most of his free time with his daughter. Jessie, as everyone in the small West Florida town of Homosassa called her, loved going to karaoke nights with her dad and playing outside in their mobile-home neighborhood. On February 24, 2005, John Couey broke into Jessie's bedroom and took her across the street to his trailer. He raped her, buried her alive, smothering her.
After his daughter's body was discovered, Lunsford embarked on a journey to pass Jessica's Law around the country. It toughens penalties against sex offenders. So far, Lunsford has convinced 46 states to pass it.
The hour-long documentary follows Lunsford as he visits Capitol Hill and state capitols to urge lawmakers to increase penalties for persons convicted of offenses against children. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at a single father haunted by the knowledge that a child molester held his daughter within earshot for three days.
Jessie's Dad was initially funded by a Carole Fielding Production Grant, along with a University of Florida research grant. Mark Lunsford, his parents and several other members of his family attended the 2008 screening of Jessie's Dad at the University of Florida. Lunsford and the film received two standing ovations from a packed theater. Green Apple Entertainment is distributing Jessie's Dad, which is available from iTunes and Amazon, where it has received an average rating of 5 (the highest possible). Lifetime and Investigation Discovery have used a substantial amount of Jessie's Dad footage in their programs. The film has screened in several film festivals, where it has won top prizes, and prestigious venues, including Columbia University's satellite campus in Paris.
Dvir reflected on the film years later in an article in the Centre Daily Times: "As a documentary filmmaker, I change my mind about societal issues related to my projects much like kids experience growth — I only notice it months, sometimes years, later. Directing and producing "Jessie's Dad" [...] altered my point of view on mandatory sentencing."
Response to the film has been positive thus far. Ted Leonsis of Monumental Sports & Entertainment called the film "tough to watch but essential film about parenting; about justice and about protecting the rights of children."
- Best Documentary at the 2011 ITN Distribution Film and New Media Festival
- Best Florida Film at the 2011 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
- Direct Cinema Outstanding Documentary Award
- CINE Special Jury Award
- Finalist for the International Documentary Association's David L. Wolper Award
- Carole Fielding Production Grant
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- "Our Story". Stop Child Predators. Retrieved 2020-02-03.
- Garcia, Vanessa (2 May 2008). "Lundsford set to attend documentaries". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
- Garcia, Vanessa. "Lundsford to Attend Documentary Premiere". ocala.com. Ocala Star Banner. Retrieved May 2, 2008.
- Altman, Howard (3 May 2008). "Lunsford Documentary Revives Pain, Loss For Family". The Tampa Tribune. Archived from the original on 2014-06-15. Retrieved 2020-02-01.
- "Rethinking the notion of a second Holocaust". centredaily. Retrieved 2016-05-02.
- Leonsis, Ted's. "Jessie's Dad". Ted's Take. Archived from the original on 2016-06-05. Retrieved 2020-02-03.