In a divided America, activist, media personality, entrepreneur and former White House advisor to the Obama administration, Van Jones works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America’s addiction crisis in this compelling documentary that was just released via VOD on April 4, 2023. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities.
Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where there is very little bipartisanship, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former Senator (now Vice President) Kamala Harris and , as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself.
While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.
The film is produced by the filmmaking team of the Kramer brothers, Lance Kramer and Brandon Kramer, with Brandon serving as Director. “The First Step” has screened at various film festivals, including Tribeca Film Festival and AFI Docs.