Saint Francis alumna Denise Blane awarded $10,000 for ‘Justice 4 Three’ documentary

October 30, 2023

Hoodox Executive Director Rocky Walls and Denise Blane (courtesy photo)

University of Saint Francis alumna Denise Blane keeps moving closer to fruition of her documentary about an injustice in Fort Wayne. Her in-progress film is gaining acclaim from others, and she hopes it can serve as an agent for change in society and the justice system.

Blane received the $10,000 grand prize at the 32nd Heartland International Film Festival on Oct. 7 in Indianapolis. PitchDox, presented by the Indiana nonprofit streaming service Hoodox, awarded Blane the prize for her upcoming film, “Justice 4 Three.” The film-pitching competition included 27 other contestants.

Blane, a 2023 Communication: Film program graduate, explains the impetus and purpose behind her film:

“‘Justice 4 Three’ is a project that holds a special place in my heart. It’s a compelling and thought-provoking documentary that shines a spotlight on a deeply distressing event—a hate crime that unfolded in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in early 2021. The film meticulously weaves together the harrowing stories of Anderson Retic, Joshua Cooper and Jaylin Rice, three young black men whose lives were irrevocably changed by an act of hatred. While the incident occurred in early 2021, the full details only came to light during the sentencing in August 2023.

“At the heart of ‘Justice 4 Three’ is the exploration of these three individuals and the dreams and aspirations that defined them. Their camaraderie, friendship and shared struggles made them relatable and endearing figures, not only to their community but to the world.

“The core of this documentary lies in its examination of the racially motivated hate crime that shattered their lives. We follow Jaylin Rice as he battles not only physical scars, but the emotional trauma left in the wake of the tragedy. The community’s response is a powerful movement—Justice 4 Three—which stands unwavering in its demand for accountability and justice.

“Through interviews with the victims’ families, chilling video evidence and Jaylin Rice’s powerful testimony, this documentary exposes the systemic challenges and deep-seated prejudices that perpetuate such devastating events. It is a stark reminder of the urgent need to address racism, hate crimes and the pressing call for change.

“‘Justice 4 Three’ is a raw and emotionally charged documentary that challenges viewers to confront their own biases and prejudices. It serves as an inspiration for audiences to join the ongoing battle for a more inclusive and equitable society.

“The film will also explore critical questions, such as the delays in achieving justice despite compelling evidence, the persistence of such events in our world, and the extent of this issue within Fort Wayne over the last decade. It aims to be a catalyst for change and to bring an end to such violence in all communities.”

Blane said the digital-format film will be 90 minutes long and she anticipates a June 2024 release. The production budget is $25,000.

“I am extremely grateful and excited about the support we received, and are still receiving, from the PitchDox competition,” Blane said. “This funding means a great deal to me, my family and to our production team. We would not be where we are without the support of the community and everyone over at Hoodox. We plan to commence production next month, and we are actively seeking additional funding to meet our budgetary goals.”

Those interested in contributing to the production costs for “Justice 4 Three” should email [email protected] for more information.