PODCAST: 'First Step' offers blueprint that can 'bring people together,' director says

Van Jones and #cut50 national organizer Louis L. Reed walk through downtown Washington, D.C., in a scene from "The First Step." Photo courtesy of Meridian Hill Pictures and Magic Labs Media. - Submitted photo

Director Brandon Kramer says he hopes his film "The First Step" will offer a blueprint on how to "bring people together on the issues that are most affecting this country: addiction and criminal justice reform."

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is set to premiere "The First Step" at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Malco Theatre.

Kramer and his brother, Lance, the co-founders of Meridian Hill Pictures, spent five years working on the film, which follows CNN political contributor Van Jones, a Black progressive activist and political commentator who attempts to pass a criminal justice reform bill called "The First Step Act" during the Trump administration. As Jones attempts to build bridges on both sides of the aisle, his efforts seem to make him a pariah to many in his own community, according to a news release.

Viewers will watch Jones face tough opposition from members of the Trump administration, even though the bipartisan bill was supported by many Republicans. Some conservatives felt it "went too far in helping the reformed prison systems," Brandon Kramer said, "and there's lots of hard-line elected leaders that feel we're not doing enough to put people in prison."

An early opponent of the bill featured in the film is U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is quoted saying the United States has an "under-incarceration problem."

On the flip side, viewers will see Jones face opposition from progressive leaders who were advocating for bills with more sweeping comprehensive criminal justice reform.