Heather Dew Oaksen. USA. 75 min.
What puts one impulsive adolescent boy in prison while another stays free? Minor differences. They may be as simple as the neighborhood he lives in, having the ability to consider consequences before acting, or having strong ties to people who wield a positive influence.
Minor Differences follows the lives of five juvenile offenders as they grow from boys to men. In 1994 they were incarcerated 15-to-18 year olds: Caucasian, Mexican-American, Native American and African-American. They committed serious crimes when they were kids: murder, kidnapping and assaults. They were felons by age 16.
Filmmaker Heather Dew Oaksen brings together these powerful first-person stories illustrating the trajectory of their lives. Oaksen did not set out to establish long-term relationships, but as teaching turned into mail correspondence, then evolved into visits, she became a ”participant observer” in their world.
Minor Differences explores the lives behind the labels. It is clear that early imprisonment effectively diverted the boys in the film not from crime but from making a sustainable life. Andy, Travis, Joe, Matt and Casey stuck with this project because they know first hand that “to jail kids is to fail kids”.