Virtually Free

Virtually Free

Virtually Free

Every year about 300,000 kids are confined in juvenile detention in the US. 70-80% percent of those detained will be re-arrested within 3 years. Richmond, Virginia’s families, police, judges, artists, and activists have united to change this in their own community.  Virtually Free is a documentary about unlikely allies who partner to transform the juvenile justice system and stop mass incarceration.

In the film, we meet Sid, Taee, and AR, three teens currently being held in a Richmond, VA detention center who are offered the chance to become activists speaking truth to power. Participating in a local arts organizations’ program, Performing Statistics, they are taught by different artists to deliver their powerful, authentic messages to the public, law enforcement, and government officials using their art, including a virtual reality jail cell they’ve helped create.


With Virtually Free, the focus of our outreach efforts will be on reaching audiences beyond traditional film distribution such as police departments, underserved communities, community arts programs, and legal justice advocates.  We’ll be working with our partners to create the tools and experiences to go along with the film.  Our ultimate goal for the impact campaign is support the movement to stop incarcerating kids and for communities to instead create alternatives to incarceration.

The scalable program allows different audiences to engage as they wish.  Components include:

  • Virtually Free Documentary Film
  • Installation created by teen participants (includes VR, interactive, and physical elements)
  • Police training curriculum created by Performing Statistics
  • Teacher and school resource officer training materials
  • Standards-based curriculum to assist teachers in using the film in the classroom
  • Discussion guide for youth audiences as part of Shine’s IGNITE program


Winner Richmond International Film Festival
Winner DC Black Film Festival
Winner Montclair Film Festival
Winner Jury Award for Impact in the Social Impact Media Awards
Shortlisted for the IDA Short Documentary Awards

Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Chicago Media Project


Directed by
André Robert Lee

Produced by
Susan MacLaury
Alexandra Blaney

Executive Producer
Albie Hecht
Dawn Porter
Hiry West

Edited by
Nick Clark

Brendan Hall

Co-Produced by
Graham Raubvogel, Charlie Sadoff

Rick Witkowski

Whitney Hudson

Sean Conrad

Tre Maison Dasan

Tre Maison Dasan

Tre Maison Dasan

TRE MAISON DASAN is a story that explores parental incarceration through the eyes of three boys. Following their interweaving trajectories through boyhood marked by the criminal justice system, and told directly through the child’s perspective, the film unveils the challenges of growing up and what it means to become a man in America. Hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting and ending with tremendous hope, Tre, Maison and Dasan’s lives are stories of growing up, struggle, loss, empathy, positivity, resilience and unconditional love.

Produced in Association with Shine Global.


Broadcast and streaming on PBS’s Independent Lens in April 2019.

“Non-fiction filmmaking doesn't get much better than this”

Chris Reed, Film Festival Today

"Potent, sometimes wrenchingly intimate... This feature directorial debut is an excellent non-fiction drama with several layers of topical resonance to encourage its exposure in an election year."


"Gripping... This picture opens our eyes to a social disruption that has been underexposed and that we all ignore at our peril."

The Hollywood Reporter

"I feel like you were telling my life. The film was perfect... It’s a must-see for everyone in prison, especially those who have children”

“They don’t have movies at my mom’s school. Only boring movies, like the news. I wouldn’t want to go there.”

Dasan, 7

“I think I’m a good person on the inside, but maybe not on the outside.”

Tre, 15

“It’s important for kids to talk to their dads because not being able to talk to someone close to you, it separates you by a huge wall - that wall is jail.”


Although a bi-partisan, national conversation around incarceration in America has been raging, the population of children affected by their parent’s incarceration has remained largely ignored. As “law and order” policies are once again promised by a new administration, the voices of children must be an instrumental component of the conversation moving forward. Beyond generational incarceration, parental incarceration is at the core of many issues including child poverty, high school drop out rates, drug abuse and others at the forefront of youth-issues in America. Tre, Maison, Dasan will be a critical immersion into how these separate systems interact within the lives of these three boys.

One in fourteen children have or have had a parent in prison. They represent the future of our country, the lasting affects of our vast incarceration system, and a chance to break a seemingly endless cycle of racism and imprisonment. Often we tell stories about children through a top down perspective, influenced by what we (adults) “know” about their psychology and how their lives will unfold. Children are critical thinkers and feelers, innocent to the boxes that society will eventually force them to conform to – race, gender, mental health, and socio-economic status. There is a desperate need for a film, and a practice, that allows the children to speak for themselves, and fully represents the experience for others living with an incarcerated parent.

Download Companion Materials:


Best Documentary Feature at Raindance International Film Festival
The Karen Schmeer Award for Best Editing at IFF Boston
Youth Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature Rhode Island International Film Festival
Best Documentary Directing Olympia International Film Festival
Heartland Film Festival Finalist


Directed AND PRODUCED by
Denali Tiller

Produced by
Rebecca Stern

Executive Producer
Andrew Freiband
Patty Quillin

Edited by
Carlos Rojas Felice

Jon Gourlay

Original Score by
Gil Talmi

Co-Produced by
Susan MacLaury, Albie Hecht, Sarba Das

Also Produced By
Craig Piligian

Andrea van Beuren

Tre Janson, Dasan Lopes & Maison Teixeira

Produced in Association with Shine Global

Official Sites