Documentary on the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit Wins a Special Jury Award at the SXSW Film Festival

click to enlarge JENIFER MCSHANE
Jenifer McShane
The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival announced its Jury and Special Award winners last night at the Paramount Theater in Austin.

Winning “Special Jury Recognition for Empathy in Craft” in the documentary film category was Connecticut-based director Jenifer McShane for her feature Ernie & Joe. The doc tells the story of Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro, two mental health officers with the San Antonio Police Department, who are part of a special unit that responds exclusively to emergency calls with mentally ill citizens.

“I am thrilled,” McShane told the Current late Tuesday night after her big win. “It's such an honor to be recognized. My hope is this will help elevate the film and bring attention to the issues surrounding the mental health crisis in this country.”

In awarding McShane with the special recognition, the SXSW jury also released a statement about the film, which made its world premiere at the festival this past Saturday.

“Everyone needs to pay the fuck attention to this deeply felt and expertly rendered documentary about two members of the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit, who are changing how police see their own jobs with their embrace of making empathy and the individual the priority over force and violence,” the statement read.

SXSW attendees have one more chance to see Ernie & Joe at the festival. The doc will screen for the final time this Friday, March 15 at 6 p.m. at AFS Cinema (6406 N. IH 35).

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