Mountainfilm 2024: Andrea Kalin’s “Public Defender,” Must-See World Premiere!

Mountainfilm 2024: Andrea Kalin’s “Public Defender,” Must-See World Premiere!

Mountainfilm 2024 features 24 world premieres, including three features. One of the latter is Andrea Kalin’s “Public Defender,” which opens in Telluride over Memorial Weekend. There is also a planned. book drive in support of the work of Andrea’s protagonist, Heather Shaner.

Go here to purchase your 2024 pass.

Go here to donate to help Mountainfilm create a better world.

Go here to volunteer.

Go here for more about Mountainfilm (going back to 2009, but including several stories and podcasts around the 2024 event).

And please scroll down to listen to our podcast with Andrea Kalin.

Two women on parallel paths appear to be working towards one significant goal: to remember our shared humanity and remind us that treating those with whom we fervently disagree with respect is essential to a working democracy. Both understand we have more in common than divides us.

Described as a short, feisty, blue-haired, left-leaning public defender, Heather Shaner lives and works in Washington, D.C. , where she has spent 40 years representing people who can’t afford a lawyer. Heather is beloved by the thousands she has helped rehabilitate with empathy and education.

Filmmaker, writer, producer and director Andrea Kalin is the creative visionary and founder of Spark Media, a production company dedicated to crafting stories with a strong social conscience. Her films have aired on major networks around the globe, screened theatrically to sold-out audiences, and earned more than 100 industry awards, including a Prime Time Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Andrea’s film debut, “Partners of the Heart,” was narrated by Morgan Freeman and named one of “NEH’s 50 Best”, aired on PBS’ “American Experience,” won the Erik Barnouw Award for Best History Documentary, and inspired the award-winning HBO original, “Something the Lord Made,” starring Alan Rickman and Mos Def.

In short, out of the gate Andrea was a winner.

As her filmography evolved so did Andrea’s signature: to bring viewers to the emotional front line where lives of courage, perseverance and dignity transcend seemingly insurmountable hardships.

The two women – Heather and Andrea – come together in Andrea’s latest’s doc titled “Public Defender,” a Mountainfilm 2024 premiere, which I previewed and loved for its raw honesty.

Andrea and Ethan with Jack, one of Heather Shaner’s defendants from “Public Defender.” Courtesy director Andrea Kalin.


Heather Shaner’s second defendant in “Public Defender.” Anne turned to books to understand true facts about January 6 versus the fake facts she had metabolized and acted on. Courtesy Andrea Kalin.


Heather Shaner, the star of “Public Defender.” Courtesy Andrea Kalin.

Asked by Federal Defenders to represent January 6 rioters, Heather forced to reconcile her fear and anger around the insurrection with her belief in everyone’s right to a fair trial. Although “Public Defender” focuses on just two case histories, in real life Heather agreed to take on about 35 defendants, a mixed blessing that has included high praise – and death threats. The Big Question on the table: How could so-called average Americans become so radicalized?

Heather Shaner’s unusual approach to defending her clients included recommending civics- and history-based books and movies and urging defendants to write self-reflection papers. (Hence the book drive)

According to IMDb:

“As Heather learns about her clients, she realizes their upbringings left them susceptible to manipulation – the perfect foot soldiers in a cynical culture war… it (‘Public Defender’) is an intimate portrait of individuals grappling with beliefs they thought were hard-wired, but are now being tested by unlikely friendships and lessons in history…”

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