The Return

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Film phase:Completed


In 2012, California voters became the first U.S. citizens to scale back sentences of the currently incarcerated by voting to amend “Three Strikes” – one of the harshest sentencing laws in the nation. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of “lifers” was underway. The Return weaves narratives of those on the front lines of this unprecedented shift, yielding an illuminating meta-narrative of historic reform. At a moment of national reckoning on mass incarceration, what can California’s experiment teach the nation?



The Return is co-directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway.

Close up shot of Kelly Duane. She looks to the side of the camera. Portrait in black and white.Kelly Duane de la Vega is an award-winning filmmaker, recent Sundance Fellow, and winner of the 2012 WGA’s Best Documentary Screenplay Award. Her feature documentaries have screened in hundreds of film festivals worldwide and broadcast internationally. Her film Better This World premiered at SXSW; it won Best Doc at SFIFF and Gotham Independent Film Awards, as well as three national Emmy® nominations and an IDA Creative Achievement Award. Her Emmy®-nominated Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America opened theatrically nationwide, screened at Lincoln Center, and is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. She founded Loteria Films in 2000.

Katie Galloway looking directly at the camera. Black and White portrait.Katie Galloway is a documentary director, producer, and writer whose films explore the intersections of institutional power, civil and human rights, and political activism. A two-time Sundance Fellow and recent Women-In-Film Women’s Initiative Fellow, Katie has received the WGA’s Best Documentary Screenwriting award, Gotham Independent Film’s Best Documentary Award, an IDA Creative Achievement Award and multiple Emmy® nominations. Her films have screened at NY MoMA, Lincoln Center, and hundreds of festivals worldwide and have broadcast nationally on P.O.V. and PBS FRONTLINE. Galloway teaches Documentary Forms at UC Berkeley, where she also earned her PhD in politics. She co-heads Loteria Films.



An Official Selection of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, The Return had its national broadcast premiere on POV by PBS in May that same year. The film also screened at schools and organizations worldwide and throughout the US as part of The Return Project’s various campaign initiatives including the State(s) of Reform Tour, the Employment Stakeholder Tour, and the National Prison Screening Tour.

The Return is now streaming on Netflix.